Some Notes from Israel
I had visited Israel over 10 years ago and I don’t really remember much of it, and I was excited to visit it. I was there for about a week or so, and my mom and brother also joined for part of it. Also got to see a few friends who lived there.
A few highlights, notes and comments from the trip:
- Spent most of the time in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a really interesting city. It has a population of around 400,000, half the size of Jerusalem. It’s a lively city, and very trendy. That was what surprised me — I felt I was walking around the whole time going, “this place is so trendy…”
- The Israeli food feels healthier than much of the other food I ate in other countries, and it probably was. Lots of salads with cucumbers and tomatoes (but those are in lots of places in the middle east). Lots of falafel and hummus. Lots of cafes where you can sit outdoors on tables looking out. There’s quite a relaxed vibe to it. And at the time we visited, the weather was really pretty nice.
- Went to a hummus place, where really the full dish is hummus. You can dip pita in it or also slices of onion. The hummus is not the side dish, it’s the main dish.
- Stayed at Abraham Hostel for a night, really a pretty big hostel and that night they had an open mic music performance and cooking classes going on, so it was pretty lively.
- Very nice beaches in Tel Aviv. There is also a nice pathway to walk down on the beach. In the pathways there are many bikes, but mostly now they are overrun by scooters. I think the whole week I was really fascinated how much the scooters had taken off. I’ve seen the e-scooters in many other cities, but I haven’t really seen a spot where it worked. Either the density was bad, and you couldn’t find one, or the paths were bad, or it wasn’t safe and there was nowhere to go, or it was too bumpy, or too many other restrictions. Basically I don’t think I’ve really seen a city where it works well (I’m sure other people disagree… in so many cities I’ve seen it seems more like an interesting and not really functional novelty). However here in Tel Aviv it really worked. You can scooter easily down the beach path, and there is a dedicated lane for bikes and scooters which makes it much safer. There are also many boulevards with lanes just for bikes and scooters. There are still many people who scooter and bike dangerously, and areas that aren’t set up for it, but overall it really is a good example of how scooters are interesting. Also it probably helps that the weather was very nice.
- Walked to Old Jaffa. There are a number of galleries there, we went in and talked with an artist in one of them for a while.
- The town isn’t too big but it seems we walked through a number of the neighborhoods. Walked through the trendy Neve Tzedek. There are a number of fancy stores, shopping, trendy restaurants. We went to Anita Gelato.
- Went on a tour day to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. We did a tour of the old city in Jerusalem visiting the Western Wall, and a number of other sites. With the four quarters in the city (Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian) it really seems that this is really religious ground zero for so many people.
- The Dead Sea was pretty fun to visit. It’s so salty you can just float, so did that for a while. And people get pretty into the mud and put it on their skin, it seems it has some health benefits. They get very into the “lowest place on earth” and that makes it onto the name of the bar and many of the souvenirs.
- Had a dinner at Old Man and the Sea — a restaurant in Old Jaffa. It was packed when we went with a pretty long line late at night. They are running quite an operation there, seems they serve thousands of people in a night. Right when you sit down they bring out 20 (yes 20) salads, and a pitcher of lemonade. So that was a fun spot to try.
- We were there during Yom Ha’Shoah, the Holocaust Day of Remembrance, and it is very noticeable. That’s because everything stops and is closed. We didn’t really realize this so that night we didn’t eat any dinner because there was nowhere to eat — everything was closed by law. This includes even the supermarkets and convenience stores and it seems every restaurant. The next morning at 10am there was a siren and everyone stopped for 2 minutes to remember the victims of the Holocaust. We were in the Dizengoff circle and you could see drivers step out of their car, people get off their scooters, exit taxis, and stand up and pause.
- Random aside, the symbol for the shekel (the Israeli currency) is one of the more interesting currency symbols. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shekel_sign
- Went to Carmel Market, a nice market. Not as crazy as many of the others I had visited, and a few very nice bread stands.
- Leaving out of the Ben Gurion airport from Tel Aviv to Athens was pretty interesting. I know it’s for security reasons but this airport is very different. When you walk in, I got grilled for maybe 4 minutes (which doesn’t sound long but really is, compared to usually 5 seconds of scanning a boarding pass normally). They asked me about my trip, and where I went and what countries, and who I knew in Israel and what their names were and so many other questions. And then when you go through the security line it takes about another 4 minutes per person, which again is so long. I basically had to unpack my whole carry-on bag so they could swab it and there were so many more people to a lane, it moved very slowly and was intense. And then as you leave, I don’t think I realized until after, but the passport control was facial recognition. I was looking at the camera, and thought it was just taking a picture, and the guy told me to smile and I wasn’t sure why. It seems I smiled on my passport photo and since I wasn’t smiling the facial recognition software wasn’t recognizing me…but that is just a guess.