After a great 5 days in Jerusalem, Scott and I had plans to head to Tel Aviv for one day and quickly enjoy the city before our flight to Greece.
Tel Aviv seems to be a modern city with stylish buildings, an energetic nightlife and a beautiful beach stretch.
Personalized by the Jaffa sandstone that you see all over Israel
There are tons of beach bars, hence the umbrellas
Sometimes a little too many umbrellas though…
Israel overall is an expensive vacation destination and Tel Aviv accommodations were astronomical. With our flash-packer budget of $100 a day we were not exactly in a position to pay for even the cheapest hotels that ran about $130/night. So we leaned on Airbnb for help. We stayed with a fun college couple that open their homes to travelers on a daily basis. They were great hosts and we found it amusing living in a college student’s house again!
Scott and I only had one day in Tel Aviv but that was enough to explore the city. We spent the entire day just walking anywhere and everywhere. It wasn’t an eventful walk but I have a few fun things to point out. For example, we found a cool park with the coolest workout machines:
We walked down a street filled with street art and I found this awesome building
I found this random chain-linked fence with post-it’s on it and signs that I couldn’t read. I have no clue what this was about but found it visually fascinating. If anyone knows what this is about, please share it in the comments section!
Scott made us visit the embassy of course
And we took a stroll down a lovely street in the middle of the “White City”
I really didn’t know what the White City was but Scott whipped out his phone and told me that he was going to take me on a walking tour and he was going to be my tour guide! So, I played along.
According to Scott: “As originally designed by architect Sir Patrick Geddes, the White City of Tel Aviv is one of the best examples of large scale urban planning to date. The White City represents architecture’s Modern Movement, and various buildings and spaces were designed by architects who had studied at the Bauhaus school, and with Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn.”
Below is a picture of the Dizengoff House, where on May 14, 1948 David Ben Gurion declared the state of Israel.
Some of the buildings need a little work
Scott ended the tour with “the part where you hold the tour guide’s hand and take a romantic stroll.” He did a great job so I tipped him the one shekel, that I found on the ground =)
We left the following morning and boy do I have a fun airport story! After receiving our boarding passes we had to drop off our bags to the security officers. I was stopped by two officers and questioned for about ten minutes while everyone behind us had to wait. “Why did you go to Jordan? Who did you stay with? Who did you talk to? Where did you stay in Israel? What are their names? Where do they live? What is your ethnic background? What are your parents names? What are your siblings’ names? Where were you born?” And every time I answered a few questions they would walk away (with our passports), hide behind an X-ray machine and talk about me. Scott says they were trying to figure out if I was Muslim, even though they never asked me directly. At one point Scott said, “This is ridiculous.” The officer then explained the reason they’re so strict is because they’ve had instances where people have tried to bring bombs on planes, or people placed bombs in other people’s luggage without them knowing. Scott said he was American and was living in New York City on 9/11 and didn’t need a lecture on airline security. Finally they let us through. It was… a very odd experience. The End!
In retrospect, taking these photos may not have been the brightest of my ideas, since a Jewish guy was shot dead at the Western Wall recently when a security guard thought he was a terrorist after the guy yelled, “Allahu Akbar.” Why a Jewish guy was yelling Allahu Akbar I’m not really sure. I suppose one could ask why I was wearing a Jordanian headscarf as well.
We had to stand around at the Western Wall forever to wait for the wind to cooperate and kick up the flag – even I was a little uncomfortable standing around in that headscarf honestly.
Kiran said as soon as people saw someone wearing an Arabic headscarf, everyone around me cleared out. At least we got a photo of my new Packers Hebrew shirt at the Western Wall.
Here’s the close-up
Kiran represented LA (technically I didn’t take this photo until Prague).
My Hebrew cousin shoutout to Ryan and Andy
We were in Jerusalem from May 22-27th (obviously we’re way behind on our posts), and I have to say Jerusalem is a great and weird place – complicated is probably the only way to describe it. The Jews and Palestinians fight over things like little children; except, when they get mad, they don’t hit or mope, they kill each other. Without assigning blame regarding the entire Arab-Israeli conflict, I think it’s important to state that 82% of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem live in poverty, hence the prayer I placed at the Western/Wailing Wall.
Unbeknownst to me, Kiran took photos of me placing the prayer in the wall as well (that’s me without the headscarf and Packers t-shirt in the middle). I tried finding room in the wall but those cracks were JAM packed.
Personally, I think we should return Jerusalem to the UN like it was supposed to be in 1948. If they can’t share Jerusalem, then no one should get it.
This place is now a church, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Apparently, Christians have fought over and claimed every little detail in that church. Catholics own some parts, various sects of Protestantism own others, the Greek Orthodox has their share … if light bulb #143 burns out, they actually know who is responsible for changing that bulb, or any other light bulb, or actually any other part of the entire church (tiles, railings, chairs, EVERYTHING).
Who keeps the key you ask? Well, that right was fought over for so long that for hundreds of years now, a Muslim family has kept the key and has opened the church every day for the Christians. Can you believe that? Christians had squabbled like little kids so much so that they have to be babysat by the Muslims.
Looking at the hill from the old city, you see the hill where Jesus was said to have ‘risen.’ The tower to right is where Catholics say he rose. But the tower to the left is where the Russians say he rose. To the left of that out of view is where German Lutherans say he rose. Good God, does everyone need their own space?
We went to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. As a building that provides a museum experience, I think Yad Vashem ranks right up there with the Guggenheim. The layout and content of the museum was world-class, simply superb. The subject of course breaks your heart.
Photos weren’t allowed, but I felt it my mission to sneak at least one, considering there are still people who claim the Holocaust was a hoax. This is a room with book after book after book of names of those killed in the Holocaust. There are two stories of books filled the names of people murdered in the Holocaust. And I think they continue to add names to this day.
Back in the old city, we learned that if a family member goes to Hajj (pilgrimage in Mecca), Palestinian families decorate and graffiti their front door to announce/brag that someone living there went to pilgrimage. I’m sure our neighbors will love that if Kiran ever goes.
The first photo of Kiran was taken atop the Austrian Hospice Hotel. If you’re ever in Jerusalem, just buzz the front door, they’ll let you in, and simply walk up to the rooftop. The Austrians let everyone take in views of Jerusalem from the rooftop. I suppose that’s the least they could do for giving the world Adolf Hitler. Here’s one last view from the rooftop
And, in the spirit of Jerusalem, I’ll share authorship of this post with Kiran. Turning it over to her:
During our normal routine of getting lost in the market, we ended up at a local’s back entrance to the grounds of Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately it was prayer time so Scott was stopped by Israeli guards. Even I had to “prove” to the guards that I was Muslim by reciting a verse from the Quran and answer a few questions.
In case you didn’t know, Dome of the Rock houses the rock that Prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven from, making it the third holiest site in Islam. However, it is the holiest site in Judaism because it also houses the foundation stone, the same rock Jews believe is the spiritual junction between heaven and earth. Muslim authorities do not let any non-Muslims in, which is pretty wrong in my opinion. But I understand that a history of squatters and squabbling has led to that decision. Tourists are allowed to visit the outer grounds for a 2hr period during the day. Despite being the core of bitter disputes between the two religions, the building has never been destroyed since it’s construction (around 685). I find that remarkable.
Even though we were hassled by the guards, especially when Scott picked a fight with one of the Muslim gatekeepers when Scott asked who was he to decide who enters God’s house, it was worth it to see the wondrous gold-domed building:
I met a nice man that took me inside and showed me around. I felt weird taking photos there as usually I never even take my phone with me when I go to pray. But I saw enough women taking photos with their iPhones so I sneaked two that are not very good:
After taking two photos I felt uncomfortable and just focused on experiencing such an important piece of my religion. The interior is going through a lot of restoration work so I couldn’t see the foundation stone however I was still able to touch the exact place where they believe Prophet Muhammad ascended.
All in all I feel grateful that I was able to visit. However, the experience felt uncomfortable all the time. I thought the nice man was just showing his fellow Muslim an important pilgrimage site, but before we departed he asked for a tour guide tip. Another man tried to get me to buy a skirt for $15 when he clearly had loaner skirts laying around. The looks of disappointment when I said I was Ismaili Muslim (I am Shia and they are mostly Sunnis in Israel) was disheartening and most importantly, I should not be lectured by a complete stranger about my marriage to a non-Muslim. The two guys that did were surprised to hear a woman talk back to him like the way I did!
Well to sum it up, I consider every Muslim a brother and sister and treat them as such initially. But the frequent attempts to squeeze money out of tourists is distracting to those that are trying to experience something deeply religious. Although disappointed by their actions, I was able to get past it and if you can too, you will truly enjoy Jerusalem and all it has to offer.