touring | israel | '17 - a conflicted holy land
'the gateway to the middle east, this is a place where tech & religion live side by side'
now I cannot say that israel was on the top of my list of places to visit in the last few years but over time the popularity of the country for visitors has soared for those who want winter sunshine from the cold european winters. Now let me tell you the in the south Ellat a beach resort you may get away from the reality of living in modern day isreal but I wanted to know the current situation in the cities of tel aviv and jerusalem. what you also need to understand is that israel is an easy country to travel in in terms of that most people speak english and there cities are super modern, easy to get around. they have a huge tech scene here but on the other side you will have encounters with army personnel on an hourly basis with huge guns traveling to where they are needed around the country.
now we all know and understand the situation with isreal and the west bank from an international perspective but I wanted to see what’s its really like on the ground. that was one of my main motivations to travel here to understand other cultures and religions. also just to note i’m not religious so I see this place only from a travellers perspective. my first port of call was tel aviv after i had taken a flight with my favorite airline ryanair.
if your into tech then this place comes up often in news stories about the latest advancements in the industry. it’s truly a place where the future is being made. now for me as a traveler I was here to discover the food scene and culture of this city. it’s a super modern city with some older historical parts mixed in.
i arrived at my hotel florentin house in the florentin area of the city this is one of the hip and trendy neighbourhoods to stay in while your here. the hotel itself is super modern actually one of the coolest places that I have ever stayed from the minalist rooms with a super hipster vibe to the little details like your own espresso machine in your room. this place really has it all they also have a gallery and workspace next door where you can have meeting or just chill out with some good music / vibes. one of the other cool things I thought was that they have made a agreement with two nearby cafes where your offered free breakfast of course you choose what you wan. my favorite was the avocado sandwich. If you looking for an alternative to the big brand hotels then this is the place to come. book here
after I got some well earned sleep I woke up early the next morning and decided to explore old Jaffa they oldest area in tel aviv right on be coast. this is a cool little area that makes for some great photos in the early morning before all the tourist arrive so make sure to get there around 9am.you’ll also find some cool old markets close by.
i arranged to have a food tour of the levinsky market with delicious isreal in the afternoon. this is one of the oldest 'quote' markets in the city as all the business have there own shops and not stalls. the food in isreal has always been of interest to me as I have seen so many new restaurants pop up in europe and I wanted to try some real Israeli food. we sampled more than 7 dishes from all different places including halva, its my favourite. but by far the coolest place we visited was cafe levinsky 41 where we enjoyed a botanical gazoz drink (photo above) truly this was one of my culinary highlights while in israel and a must try while in the city.
this is the centre of religion in israel, it's a fascinating place to visit. an ancient city that is modernising at a rapid pace as the rest of israel is, especially tel aviv. but i came here to experience the old centre and also travel to the west bank to see the situation for myself.
but first i had organised to stay that the lovely but extremely busy abraham hostel near balishuk market, its really located in an amazing area. the hostel is bright, clean and has a great atmosphere just through the sheer number of travellers that pass through there doors even in the off season so it very easy to meet people from all walks of life.
but for me the thing that made this hostel chain special is that they have there own tour desk and services with some super interesting tours, i went on there hebron tour that was fascinating. when you have such a great integration of hostel and tours it makes your life so much easier visiting the more difficulty places like where i went to: hebron. this was really once of the places that i wanted to come to for sure before i decided to visit israel. i took the; dual narrative hebron tour. you can view more about it and book here.
this for me was the most difficult place to visit. its a place that is full of despair for the Palestinians. the are under israel army control. i witnessed first hand on the tour the difficult situation the residents of old hebron have from numerous check points to lack of tourist money and just a general sense that this place has been left to decay. we toured around the old town and spoke with local people whom had difficult situations like our tour guide whom needed a pass to leave hebron for israel. this was restricted only depending on the situation. there are so many issues on both sides of the story and as i don't want to get into politics so much i will leave it for you to make your mind up when you visit. but what i can say is that when i visit places like this i truly understand how lucky i am just being born in europe its such a privilege just to have the freedom that we have and that others around the world do not. but what i can say from listening to both sides is that i cannot see an end to the bloodshed unless there is war. when it comes to religion both side are blinded by history.
israel is definitely a must see on the travellers trail and as i am trying to visit every country in the world i needed to come here. do i believe its ready for mainstream tourists to be honest no. i felt on some occasions that there was tension between the jewish & muslim communities. i met some really interesting people whom made me think that there can be a world where both exist so this was a positive for me. if your interested in religion and history than i would say come here for such you will see some truly spectacular sights. as
my recommended places to visit
- tel aviv
places to eat
- ben sira hummus (jerusalem)
- ishtabach (jerusalem)
- beer bazaar (tel aviv)
- levinsky market (tel aviv)
- levinsky 41 cafe (tel aviv)
how to get around
- bus & train
-uber (super cheap here) (use code; carlm5078ue for a free ride)
where i stayed
- florentin house (tel aviv)
- abraham hostel (jerusalem)
length of stay
- 2 weeks is enough time to explore the country but if you want to do it in depth then a month would be best.
- they use israeli new shekel. its an expensive country on par with scandinavia & new york.
- if your a european citizen and you travel often see my blog post on the curve card its the best travel card around i have saved hundreds of euro's using it. download the app and enter my promo code to get a free card & €/£5. click here to see the post
country travel tips
atm: any is fine they all charge a small fee.
taxi: can be expensive here take an uber.
sim card: partner seems to be the best.
uber: use code; carlm5078ue
airbnb: get $20usd off your booking here: www.airbnb.com/c/cmuies