20 January 2012

7 Things to See in Israel

2 weeks in Israel is not nearly enough time to visit and see everything you want. I only scratched the surface when I was there, but what I did experience was life-changing and remarkable - something I wouldn't change for the world. Just about every location in Israel holds a special meaning and will move you in some form or another, the follow seven places represent the sites that I fell in love with the most. They are in no particular order - I'm not sure if I could even decide which of these was most remarkable if my life depended on it!

1. Western Wall, Jerusalem

The Western Wall is such a beautiful are on the Temple Mount as the emotion tied to this site is incomprehensible. The Jews are so dedicated to this spot, and to the hopes of a 3rd temple, that it's hard to to be emotionally moved just from being here. It almost feels weird, as a tourist, visiting a place where such raw emotion and passion is being displayed. But it's beautiful and eye-opening.

2. Mt. of Olives

The Mt of Olives is incredibly stunning, situated on a mountain within view of old Jerusalem with gorgeous scenery and churches scattered on its slope. This site has multiple biblical significances, including being the site of the Garden of Gethsemane. It really does feel surreal to be walking down the Mount of Olives, or anywhere in Israel for that matter, when you realize the history and significance of this little country.

3. Dead Sea

While there is mention of the Dead Sea in the Bible, the Dead Sea is a must see simply because of the amount of fun you will have! What's better than floating like a cork in the saltiest water in the lowest place on earth? Perhaps smearing mud all over your body, resulting in a resemblance to the creature from the black lagoon - which also is a highlight of the Dead Sea! Seriously, it doesn't get better than playing around like a kid in another country.

4. Masada

I loved Masada simply because of how different it was from anything else I had seen in Israel (or anywhere for that matter.)  Exploring a fortress out in the middle of the Judean desert was an exciting experience and to learn the history at the same time was awesome. The views from the top of Masada were completely breathtaking - civilization nowhere in sight. Imagine was it must have been like in Herod the Great's time.

5. Sea of Galilee

The place that pulls at my heart strings more than any other. The Sea of Galilee, the place I would move in a heartbeat if I could (and if I was ready to actually settle down.) The Sea of Galilee is so far removed from the big cities and is so tranquil and beautiful - it's hard not to fall in love with Israel here. Galilee is surrounded by gorgeous, green hills (in February, at least..) and is so laid back - it would be a perfect place to run away from it all! If you ever find yourself here, you have to take a boat out onto the Sea of Galilee to truly appreciate the beauty of the region.

6. Tel Meggido

Tel Meggido was a fascinating place to visit not only because of what has taken place there in the past, but also because of what will happen there in the future. This is the place where it is said the last battle will take place (we get the word 'Armageddon' from 'Tel Meggido').  It was amazing to experience this place as it is now - quiet and beautiful, in light of what it will become soon enough.

7. Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is an awesome city because you get the Israeli atmosphere, without all the conflict. Whereas there is tension and sometimes, worry in Jerusalem - Tel Aviv is laid back and anything goes. I, for one, loved Tel Aviv because of the "beach city" aspect. It felt like a big city on the map, but a quaint, friendly city once you walk the streets. There are interesting shops, flea markets and such and this seems like the kind of place you could live and still be exploring years later. Tel Aviv is cool, artistic and not-so-serious, but beautiful and historic at the same time.

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