We checked out of the Crown Plaza and toured the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before lunch. The museum had a massive replica of the city as well as the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept. After lunch at the museum, we re-boarded the bus and headed off towards Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv is a bustling coastal city with chill vibes, similar to San Diego. Everyone is active and there’s free city-wide Wi-Fi!
We checked-in to our hotel, the Metropolitan, which was only a few blocks from the Mediterranean and I quickly changed into swimwear for a quick swim in the sea before dinner.
Several of us swam out to the rock pilings for a neat view of the shoreline. The waves weren’t very large and the water was reasonably clear. Small schools of fish darted around and small barnacles threatened to tear our flesh as we pulled ourselves onto the rocks.
The sunset was rad and everything was so much more laid back as compared to Jerusalem.
After supper, we listened to an officer in Israel’s Shayetet 13, Israel’s version of Navy SEALs. The officer was one of the guys in command during the Gaza Flotilla Operation and his stories were remarkable!
Afterwards, several of us went outside to explore Tel Aviv. I walked around a bit groaking at locals eating over-priced ice cream, and eventually bought some candy from a grocery store (that was intended as part of a resupply package for my expedition in the North Cascades the next week, but it ended up being given to two Pacific Northwest Trail thru-hikers who we met the day we got evacuated from the firezone…but that’s a completely different story than this one). I then walked along the beach, bought some ice cream that was cheaper than the other shops I had passed, and sat down on a cold stone bench to watch two homeless men play chess. I finished up my ice cream and pondered asking them if I could play the winner. Then I noticed several kids playing soccer with a volleyball on the sand and decided I’d rather play soccer than chess. So I joined them and found out that they were French-Israelis and they barely spoke English.
I left the goons when it was midnight, but my team had a decent lead when I left.
The next morning, I woke up early to try to rent a sailboat and go for a quick sail on the Mediterranean with J.M. Ramsey, one of the other guys in the group. Unfortunately, we got there two hours too early since they didn’t rent out boats until 10 AM. Our tour group would be leaving the hotel at 10 AM so that nixed that idea.
We decided to just rent bicycles and pedal around the coast for an hour. Tel Aviv has green bikes all over the city that you can rent for a few dollars, and they come equipped with a rear basket and a horn/bell. So with only about an hour to enjoy as much of Tel Aviv as we could before having to go back to the hotel, shower, eat breakfast, and check out, we gunned it pretty hard and raced down the shore to the older part of Tel Aviv.
After getting back to the hotel and checking out, our group traveled into downtown Tel Aviv and we visited Independence Hall.
From Independence Hall, we walked through a small neighborhood and arrived at Nana Bar, a charming restaurant that had a swell artistic feel to it. The food was incredible (as always in Israel) and the restaurant was so artsy that some lady was awkwardly doing some nude modeling in the second floor studio behind me.
We were all pretty stuffed by the time dessert came out, but with amazing sorbet, chocolate mousse, apple crumbles, coffee, and more, I did my best to finish off any leftovers. Unfortunately, my camera is awful at taking any closeup photos, such as photos of food, but thanks to the wild, motorcycle-riding Anna Heritage (the other half-Asian on this trip), here’s a picture! Follow her on Instagram and check out her website!
After lunch, we drove over to the Yitzhak Rabin Museum to learn more about Israel and Yitzhak Rabin. It’s an incredible museum and instills within its visitors a sense of patriotism. By the time I left the museum, I felt more Israeli than American.
Then we visited a large open area near a hotel that had a simple looking, small box-like building on it. It turned out to be a bomb shelter and was actually pretty neat to go inside. Once we were all inside, we listened to a women’s-rights lawyer talk about atrocities happening around the world to women, and then we left to go get dinner.
We drove over toward the older part of Tel Aviv and I recognized the area from the morning’s bike ride with J.M. As we walked to the restaurant, we passed by a small colony of cats having their daily business meeting. At least twenty cats were just chilling, talking, meowing at each other and I wondered how much toxoplasmosis was in the dirt there.
We ate our last meal in Israel at the Hag Khil and the shawarma was among the best I’ve had. We stuffed ourselves and then boarded the bus to take us to the airport.
From the airport, bags were checked and we flew off on a direct flight back to JFK in New York.
On the way back, I read a few chapters from Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills and worked on a backup route for the backpacking expedition that I would be leading with two of my college pals in two days time. I dozed a bit as well, and reflected on my time spent in the Holy Land.
Overall, the trip was incredible, and I highly recommend visiting the Holy Land with Covenant Journey and Mat Staver!