AN EPIC JOURNEY
The south of Israel introduces the adventurous tourist to most of what the country has to offer – history, beaches, hilly hamlets and the magnificent Dead Sea. If you go Jerusalem from Tel Aviv airport, you will encounter surprising stretches of greenery on the way. But the kind of beauty you will encounter in Jerusalem put all of the aforementioned scenery to shame. Patches of colourful flowers at street junctions, quaint residences with graceful balconies and the lilting framework of the Old City on the fringes of the new settlements etched he city in our hearts in no time.
BACK IN TIME
One could easily spend a few days exploring every nook and cranny of the Old City but we managed to grasp the mystical significance of the Church of Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall in a single day. At the Western Wall, it’s quite common to see Jewish men and women praying and weeping for the destruction of their temples in the past. By night, you will experience a sound and light show at the Tower of David, demonstrating the various invaders who tried to claim the holy land for themselves through history.
In your next stop in Israel, the Ein Gedi Kibbutz, one of several in the country and well-frequented due to its proximity to the Dead Sea. But before that, you can stop at Ein Karem, a village so beautiful, it was straight out of a fairy tale. Nestled in mountains and greenery, this little town was the birth place of St John the Baptist and is a popular pilgrimage site for Christians. You can enjoy a long stroll on tree-fringed paths, encountering churches and a holy spring on the way.
At Ein Gedi, you can stay in individual, rustic cottages with little verandas made cool and fragrant by the tall trees waving in the ever present breeze offered by local community. The community also houses a wonderful botanical garden, full of indigenous plants. Rubbing myrrh leaves between our hands and then inhaling its Biblical fragrance was a magical experience, as was witnessing the sun rise above the Judean Mountains at 6 am. At the Ein Gedi Desert Institute, if you get chance to see a Nubian ibex (mountain goat) near your stay.
The Dead Sea being the saltiest sea in the world, allows humans to float without any movement. Half an hour of soaking in its unique composition of salts and minerals was enough to leave us feeling uniquely rejuvenated. Many also apply the curative mud from the banks of the sea, followed by an outdoor shower and a dip in a warm sulphur pool.
More you can visit to the resort town of Eilat, famous for the Dolphin Reef, Underwater Observatory and Marine Park and, of course, the Red Sea which is actually deep blue in colour. Walking along the winding canal in the night and passing by energetic bars, fairs and al fresco restaurants will be experience to cherish.
On the whole, Israel charmed us with opposing elements contributing to a social, political environment, pulsating with energy.