The most recent traveling I did was last December when I went on a birthright trip to Israel. It was one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. I was extremely hesitant to go on the trip, assuming that since the majority of people attending would be from south Florida I would have a lot of trouble getting along with them. However, I had three friends who I only grew closer with during those amazing 10 days. Here are some of the highlights:
The view in Haifa. Thought Haifa was to the north and located several thousand feet above sea level (which set off my altitude sickness), this view is almost unmatched. The gardens here are kept perfectly preserved overlooking the beautiful water. I am always drawn to water, and so this coastal city was my favorite northern destination.
The desert. Going into the desert was a new experience for me, and I didn't realize how ignorant I am of the natural world until this visit. We hiked through the desert mountains, played in the desert streams, and I wore a sweatshirt the entire time because I am unnaturally sensitive to cold. The hot, dry, desolate, flat images I had in my head were completely erased as I found complete solace in this natural beauty. The picture I posted a few days ago is of a scene that I cannot recreate with digital photography, but I will say that after this visit I have a lot more appreciation for the dry, desolate areas than I ever did before.
Riding a camel is one of the quintessential Israel experiences. Although I am not sure that any of this is genuine anymore, the camel escapade was followed by one of sleeping in bedoiun tents "as the nomads do" and hiking to the top of Matsada to watch the sun rise over the desert. I can assure you that camel travel will never be popular again as camels may be the least graceful of God's creatures.
Second to the desert, Jaffa was my favorite stop on the journey we took. Jaffa is an old biblical city linked with Tel Aviv, the modern entity of Israel, that teems with history. While the smell of pigeons overrides any other pleasant odors that may mingle with it, Jaffa was one of the only times I branched out of my niche and ate authentic Israeli food besides hummus. I came back only able to talk of two foods I liked, and one is the tomatoey goodness of Shakshukra, which is apparently extremely famous in this one small place in Jaffa.
I got mine with sausage because I firmly believe all food is better with protein.
And of course, no visit to Israel is complete without visiting Jerusalem. Jerusalem is pictured here with the desert behind it. The city is a complete melting pot of different cultures stirred together with the extreme modern influence of the tourists. It was quite interesting to visit the most holy place in the Jewish faith in the same day as a visit to the local bars, but the importance was not lost on our group. I learned more here than I did in any other part of Israel about the culture of the Israeli people. Walking around Jerusalem at night I felt safer than I ever had. It occurred to me on the last night that no one had ever told me to watch my purse or not walk alone, and in stark contrast to my visit to Europe I never felt the need to grasp on tightly and stay confined to the safety of my bedroom at night. The overwhelming sense of security is something foreign to me while back in this country, and I am confused by the fact that I am more comforted by the openness of their guns than I am concerned that there are guns out in the open. It was nice to feel what life can be like without constant worry, which I always thought was a constant concern in Israel.
This is a picture I took in the soldier's cemetery while attempting to be artsy. At the time I didn't realize how beautiful and representative it really was to me. I considered very hard the thought of moving to Israel after this trip, and while that may still be a possibility in the future, this picture reminds me that there is both hope and loss, and wherever I go those two things will continue to co-exist.