Israel

I thought when I got back from Spain I wouldn’t travel again for a while because I had been doing so much traveling (America in the summer, then Trabzon, then Italy, then America again, then Spain) but I was wrong. There was a two week semester break at the end of January and I hardly had any classes so naturally I started thinking about places to go. My American friend Sarah, who was Anna’s roommate here, was living in Israel with her Israeli boyfriend, whom (?) she had met in India when she was studying yoga there. I found cheap tickets, the weather was sunnier and warmer than Istanbul, and Sarah was free, so six days after I bought my ticket I was there!

Israel was never one of those places I had ever thought about visiting. Not that I had anything against it, it just had never occurred to me, even though it is only a 2 hour flight from Istanbul. I’m embarrassed to say I hardly knew anything about the history and politics there, but Sarah and Oren were very patient with me while I asked many questions. Oren’s family had an interesting history, although I can’t remember the details. His grandfather had managed to escaped from Austria during the war when he was a teenager, while the rest of his family ended up in Cuba (his father was in a concentration camp for a while) until they were reunited later. His grandfather ended up in Israel, working on a kibbutz. He had been a spoiled boy, growing up in a very wealthy family with servants, so to be in this situation was quite a shock for him. I wish I could remember more about his history, and I wish I had had a chance to talk to more people and hear more stories – I am sure there were so many like this, but perhaps not as lucky as his. 

My friend Sarah, who is Jewish, was making aliyah (I’m not sure if that is the correct way to say it, but I read it like that somewhere), which is when Jewish people can go to Israel to live, and they are given automatic citizenship plus many other benefits, like a free flight out plus extra baggage, several months of free Hebrew classes, rent money, a stipend, and many other things. They are living in Tel Aviv, which is a modern city, located right on the Mediterranean. There are so many parks and places to ride your bike, health food shops and of course lots of beaches. I really enjoyed Tel Aviv, but the rent prices were sky high (couple thousand dollars for a 2 bedroom apartment in a decent area), making one think twice before moving there. 

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My friends Sarah and Oren. They are vegan so that’s not a big piece of chicken, but sweet potatoes. 

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YUM!

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I hadn’t ridden a bike in a LONG time and it was particularly difficult on this beautiful, sunny day (apparently the first in a while) because it was a Saturday, the official day off when everything is closed so everyone is out enjoying the day. I had to dodge kids, dogs on leashes taking up the whole lane, kids on tricycles, people walking in the bike lane – I can’t believe I didn’t run over anyone! In this picture it isn’t crowded and the paths are wide, but trust me, it changed when we got closer to the coast. 

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People playing paddle ball on the boardwalk

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People dancing on the boardwalk

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Or you can play volleyball on the beach. Seriously, this city is so cool. I loved it. 

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We kept riding our bikes to the very south of Tel Aviv to Jaffa, the historic part with a mixture of Jews and Muslims. It was hard to capture in photos but it had a different feel from the rest of Tel Aviv. 

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Sarah and I went to Jerusalem for a night – Oren’s uncle, who lives in Austria, has an apartment there and it’s only an hour bus ride from Tel Aviv so it was an easy trip. There was a market on our way to the apartment – it reminded me of the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul!

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This soup was delicious – it is made with kubbeh, sort of a meatball covered in bulgar, but the soup was kind of a sour soup, I think with some chard and beets in it, neither of which I thought I liked but it really worked. 

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And some cheese based desserts.

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The old city at dusk

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No words for this! This is a highly controversial part of the Old City and it is only open limited hours, but I am so glad we got to go in.

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We ended our trip in Jerusalem with a giant delicious salad – they really know how to make salads there!

It really was a great trip – I got to see two great people and catch up and also learn new things, and eat some really delicious food, and it was a very affordable trip. I would recommend visiting Israel, but I would combine it with a visit to Jordan to make your time worthwhile. Be ready to eat! 

I think every single one of my friends is putting a shout out to his or her mom on facebook, now that everyone is doing it I don’t want to do it but I don’t want my mom to feel left out so I’ll put it here! Thanks Mom, you’re the best! Thanks for wiping my butt when I pooped on myself when I was a baby, or watching my painful theater productions, or being patient while I refused to eat about 90% of the food in front of me. I’m sorry I asked for so much plastic crap, and if I ever told you you were the worst mother ever when I was a teenager, I totally didn’t mean it, you have always been awesome. My mom rocks! I don’t feel this today, but every day!

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