I did manage to post photos on Facebook and Flickr while I was away but not all of you are part of that world so I'll share a few here too.
I was in Israel for essentially 12 days if you subtract a day of travel on either end of my two week adventure. One of those 12 days was dedicated to running, and then recovering from running, the Tel Aviv half. Every other day was spent either exploring Tel Aviv and surroundings by foot or day-tripping all over the country by car, bus or train. Five days were spent on the road and, during those five days, I was able to visit Cesaria, Jerusalem, Akko, Masada, the Dead Sea, the Negev Desert and the Sea of Galilee. Each one was unique and memorable.
Along the way, I tried to absorb the history of Israel which proved to be quite the challenge. I'm used to history being rather linear. You know like: King whatshisname ruled and then Queen whatshername took over until she was beheaded and then prince whatshisname stepped in. Once you know the order, it's pretty easy to understand what happened.
In Israel, the history is linear (or horizontal if you will) but it is also vertical. There are so many layers and so many players that it was nearly impossible to keep them straight. I learned about the Jews, the Romans, Christians, Muslims, Crusaders, Palestinians, Mamluks, Bedouins, Arabs, Russians, and Romanians. Some of the history is religious, other parts are political. People are divided or joined by language, religious beliefs or country of origin.
As a Canadian, I was pretty free to go where I wanted but it is not that easy for everyone. There are invisible lines that I could not see and yet others I was with could not cross. Language or accent could be enough to get a person in pretty serious trouble and yet, for me, it opened doors. "Where are you from?" "Canada" "Ah Canada! Welcome. Welcome" was a daily conversation for me. My trip was rich with experience because I was able to interact with every group I met. It transformed Israel into a country I felt very safe in and a country I would happily live in. That surprised me because I had not expected to feel that.
I also discovered that I look rather Tel Avivian. My dark wavy hair and blue eyes fit right in and it was always assumed I was local and spoke Hebrew until I opened my mouth. I'm used to looking like a tourist when I travel so it was nice to feel welcome in a way that I don't usually feel.
Want to see a few pictures of the trip?
Baklava was everywhere and absolutely delicious. I quickly learned that it was an Arab, not a Jewish, treat so we had to head to the Arab villages and markets every time I had a craving.
Juice stands are to Tel Aviv what Tim Hortons are to Canada. One on every corner and always a line up. This one was a particular favourite and the place where I had my daily pomegranate juice fix.
Pomegranates, my favourite fruit, were everywhere and sold pretty much any way you wanted them.
A Greek-Catholic church in Jerusalem - completely empty and absolutely beautiful.
One of the stations of the cross (via de la rosa) in Jerusalem. The crosses are there for people who would like to carry a cross as they walk in the steps of history.
There are four quarters in Jerusalem: Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Arab. The markets in the Muslim quarter were by far the most colourful.
Lunch in Akko, the oldest port city in Israel, involved sitting by the water and watching these boys jump off and climb back up the ancient stone walls.
Doors in Akko are all painted this gorgeous blue colour. Apparently it wards off the evil eye. It also makes for pretty nice pictures.
Old Jaffa, part of Tel Aviv was visited several times. The old stone streets and buildings and wonderful shops kept tempting me back.
So did the blue doors.
Masada - built by Herod at the top of a mountain in the desert. This photo does not do the ruins justice but it gives you an idea of the dust storm that rolled in while we were there.
Satan's gate - the entrance to the small crater we visited while in the Negev Desert.
One of the spectacular mountain-top views in Galilee.
That is just a taste of some of the sights I saw while in Israel. If you are at all interested, I have a much larger collection of photos posted on my Flickr site.