This past June 26 – July 7, 2013, my wife, daughter and I took a trip to Israel to visit family and sight see. After a 7 hour flight to Paris and 4 hour flight to Tel Aviv, we finally arrived but unfortunately our luggage didn’t make it. We decided to wait in the airport for our luggage to arrive on the next flight from Paris and it did. We finally we able to leave the airport around 5PM and we went to pick up the rental car and began the 45-minute trip to Jerusalem where we were staying.
Now I’d say that I’m a pretty good driver but driving in Israel is definitely a different experience than it is driving in the U.S. The drivers in Israel seem a little bit more reckless but I quickly adjusted to their style while also driving defensively. One of the things I liked about driving in Israel is that all of the traffic lights turn yellow before they turn green. Apparently it dates back to when a lot of cars were manual and the yellow light gave drivers warning that the light was about to change.
We finally arrived in Jerusalem, a city without any type of road grid system. Seriously, it’s like road planners threw a plate of cooked spagetti on the ground and said, this will a map of our city. After zig-zagging our way to where we were staying, we rested up for the night and tried to adjust to Israel time. We woke up fresh the next morning and met up with family in the Old City. I’m not much of a history buff but this area is one of the most interesting and significant areas in world.
There are many walls that date back thousands of years. We explored the many marketplaces where you can bargain for souvenirs and goods. Spending most of my life in the U.S. and not traveling much, I’d never experienced anything like this before. We went on a tour of the City of David, where we traveled through tunnels that were traveled by others in ancient times. There were very narrow passage ways to go though and it was interesting to see. After that we went back home to relax.
The next day, we began a road trip up north with family. We drove east out of Jerusalem on Highway 1. It was a very steep, down hill grade leaving Jerusalem with windy turns. You then begin to hit the desert and it flattens out a bit. We then traveled north up route 90, passing Jericho towards the west.
After about two hours of total driving, we reached Belvoir Fortress. We got out of the car and looked around the ruins of this ancient fortress built about 900 years ago. It was a lot of fun to travel through what remained of the different rooms of the fortress. Some rooms of the fortress were still intact with roofs while others just had walls that had been destroyed over the years. We then walked down along some of the moat before leaving.
We continued to head up north towards, stopping in Beit She’an for lunch. Not many people spoke english in this area. When I tried to order lunch, the person behind the counter had to go to the back of the store to get someone that spoke english. I ended up just getting pizza. We got back in the car and headed north towards Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus supposedly walked on water in the biblical days. We drove through a nice resort looking town called Tiberius before arriving at our resort on the north side of the Sea of Galilee in a town called Ginosar.
After resting for about an hour and going for a dip in the lake, we decided to drive up north to a town called Safed (pronounced Zvat) for dinner. Safed is a beautiful town located on a mountain. It has a lot of history. In the 16th century it was the center of Jewish mysticism. There are mostly stone roads and stairs and the doors to homes are painted in vibrant colors. The streets are very narrow and mostly one-way for vehicles.
After dinner we headed back to Ginosar and went to bed. The next day we went on another road trip up north even further to go on a 3 mile hike that ended with a beautiful view of a waterfall. After the hike, we stopped at a winery and tasted a few samples. We then drove back down south and went into Tiberius for dinner. We had dinner at a restaurant that was right on the Sea of Galilee. We saw a few party boats with screaming passengers pass by as we ate. Tiberius is a very pretty town. There seemed to be a lot of night life for the younger crowd. Right before dinner I snapped this shot of the lake with the mountains in the background. Not much further past those mountains in the distance is the country of Jordan.
After a good nights rest, we left the resot in Ginosar and headed East towards a large city called Haifa. We were in search of this cities famous gardens. Once we entered Haifa we traveled trough a downtown area and then up some steep hills before reaching the gardens. The terraces in the gardens represent the first eighteen disciples of the Báb, a religious movement.
We left Haifa and traveled south down Highway 2 which travels along the Mediterranean Sea. We then stopped at a beach in Caesarea with an ancient Roman double aqueduct that brought water from springs at the foot of Mount Carmel; a boundary wall; and a 200 ft wide moat protecting the harbour to the south and west. The Mediterranean water was warm and clean. We didn’t stay too long at the because because it was getting late and we wanted to head back to Jerusalem. We continued to travel south down Highway 2 towards Tel Aviv and then West on Highway 1 towards Jerusalem. We hit quite a bit of rush hour traffic.
The next day we again traveled East from Jerusalem but this time headed south on Rt 90 towards Masada. As we traveled south, we traveled along he dead sea to the left. I went through a check point which kinda startled me. I think it’s because I grew up not seeing many guns because when I see people holding large guns I get a little freaked out.
It took about an hour and a half of total driving to get from Jerusalem to Masada. When we arrived, it was very hot. It was hotter than it was in Jerusalem because we were now in the desert. Masada is an ancient fortification on top of an isolated rock plateau hat overlooks the Dead Sea. Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. The Siege of Masada in 73 or 74 CE by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Jewish rebels and their families holed up there. The story is quite fascinating and if you are interested, there is a TV mini-series from 1981 that tells the story along with countless books articles of course. We couldn’t visit all of Masada because it was too hot to stay and we had to leave but we did get a good tour of most of it. I’d recommend visiting Masada early or late in the day but not between noon and 5PM.
The next day we met cousins at the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. Below is a picture of my daughter playing in the petting zoo area. She had a blast. We then visited the Jerusalem Mall. Parking in the mall was very difficult but once we finally found a spot, we went inside and looked around.
We also visited Tel Aviv, a very large city on the coast. There were many beaches and hotels along the water. We stopped for lunch and shopped a bit.
The day we had to leave, we woke up around 3AM and left for the airport. I returned my rental car and we went into the airport. The security in the airport is taken very seriously in Israel. We boarded the plane and relaxed. The trip home seemed to go by a little faster than it did going there. Luckily there were no flight delays and we made it home by a reasonable time. Israel was a great country to visit. All of the history really hit me because it is very meaningful. We would like to go back and visit again a few years because we would like to see family again and there are many things that we missed visiting on this trip.