When I told my friends I was going to go exploring Israël by myself, everybody thought I was either crazy, dumb or brave. I guess I would have most likely thought the same if one of them would have made the same kind of announcement, but my ticket was already booked and my decision already set. I have always be one of these people who have to see something with their own eyes in order to believe disclosures and same goes when I am traveling: I'm constantly looking for places that aren't so well-known in order to build up my own opinion.
As always, my plan was to stay in Europe as I want to explore it as much as I can before I start heading off to another area of the globe, but the tickets to Tel-Aviv were actually cheaper from Helsinki than the ones to go to Greece or Portugal. I was only looking for a place where I could soak up some sunlight before heading back to the big North.
And here I arrived at Ben Gurion airport, Tel-Aviv at 2AM on the 23d of June. The air was warm when I got out of the airport and jumped into a taxi to get to my hostel and this simply increased my excitement even more, as even the night was telling me I was far away from home. There were palm trees on the way to the center, hebrew music on the radio and Israeli flags everywhere. I always get this stress combined with happiness and fear when I get to a new place and I don't know where I'm about to sleep on the following night nor end up on the next day.
Despite being an amazing place, I believe I didn't get the most out of Tel-Aviv as I only spend one and a half days there. It truly feels like a western place as it looks a lot like Miami (Well I've never been there but that's how I imagine it to look like :D) and that's not really what I was looking for. We hung out with my roommate Elena around the old Jaffa and the high skyscrapers, sunbathing at the beach and went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. I can't believe last time I dived in it from this side of the seashore I was around 6 years old, during a family trip to Tunisia, around 15 years ago. The water is a lot warmer there than it is on the Riviera where I used to spend all my summers back when I was living in France, and I definitely wouldn't complain about this at all!
Elena had to come back to Moscow as her trip was coming to an end, and despite promising my mum I wouldn't go there (I hadn't told her I was going to Israël by myself until the very end of my trip), I decided to catch a bus and leave to the gates of Palestine and visit what is probably the holiest place on earth, Jerusalem. And this was the best decision I had made in a very long time, along with coming to Israël.
I have never felt what I experienced in Jerusalem. I traveled through the Middle-East ever since I was a child with my parents and am used to evolve in a different culture from mine on a daily basis as I live abroad at the moment, but never have I ever seen something like this place in my life.
I am not sure if one could ever find the right words to describe Jerusalem, as it is such a torn-apart land, but also filled with so much love. Don't ever think you are not welcome there, because locals are so happy to see you coming to discover their country. I got this question so many times before, during and after my trip: "Why Israël?" Because why not? Why would"t you want to go to a place you have heard about for your whole life?
The people you meet on the way are also a great part of the trip, and for this I can say I have had the best company ever with my friends from the Netherlands, the USA, Russia and all the others we met on the street or at the hostel. What was truly enjoyable about this place was that people were from so many different generations, from underaged to retired, sharing a few days all together. I have never seen a hostel like this before and would warmly recommend it.
On the first afternoon of my stay in Jerusalem, I went wandering around the old city by myself to get an overview of the different quarters. As it happened to be a holy day for both Jews and Muslims the narrow streets were absolutely packed with people. It was an amazing feeling and did not feel insecure at any point of my walk. Respecting people also starts with respecting their cultures if you want it to go the other way around, and I truly believe this can work anywhere on earth.
The highlight of this trip was going all together with my new friends to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea after climbing a mountain before heading to an oasis in the middle of the palestinian territories and finally covering ourselves in mud before taking a bath and floating in the Dead Sea. This was such an amazing time and pictures will never express the way I felt while being there. We simply had so much fun!!
We partied on rooftops, drank local tea and coffees in the best café ever (Isam this one is definitely for you!!) and Belgian beer in markets, climbed over the mount of olives, visited so many religious places and ate way too much hummus and falafels, celebrated Shabat and slept so little that I don't even know how could my body carry me around for 20km every day there. I also drank amazingly tasty Israeli wine followed by the worst hangover I ever had in a very long time. And I wouldn't change a thing. Thanks again to all of the people who have been a part of this trip, and for my holy trinity, definitely see you soon riding dragons :D
All of these pictures have either been taken by myself or by my friend Cristian Geelen whom I have met during my stay in Jerusalem. None of them are free to use nor reflect any kind of opinion about the political, economical and military situation in Israël whatsoever.
CHECK OUT CRIS'S INSTAGRAM FOR MORE PICTURES, HE'S SOOO TALENTED: PULVERCRIS