From my trip to Israel, of course.
I’ve actually been back for a few days but this jet lag thing is a bitch. Not to mention unpacking, laundry, laundry and catching up with my husband. We hadn’t been together for ten whole days. And by together, I mean in the biblical sense. Which feels appropriate to say here because, well, you know, I was in the Holy Land.
I’ve been getting my thoughts together on how I’m going to share my Israeli experiences with you. Because boy, for the five actual days we were there, we had mega experiences. Morning to night out-of-body experiences. Eating, drinking, hiking, digging and crying.
And I’ve decided to do it like this: Over the next week or so, depending on how much my out-of-school kids annoy me while I try to write, I’m going to recap each day with pictures, highlights and hopefully, moments of meaningfulness. And then at the end, I’ll wrap everything up with a nice, neat bow and tell you what I really thought of it.
So here goes Day 1. Well actually, Day 1.5.
The journey started with me sitting next to a crying baby on the plane. For 10 hours. A crying baby and his French mother who smelled. (Sorry about the stereotyping but, well, it was true.)
But after a total of 18 hours, and a plane change in Paris, we made it to the King David Hotel and met up with the rest of our family. We also met Hillel, the amazing man who was to be our guide for the week.
Our first outing was an hour after we checked in, when all 13 of us, and Hillel, boarded the bus that was going to be our home away from home for the week, and headed out to Mount Scopus to watch the sunset and say a few blessings. And the sun did not disappoint. Neither did the grape juice that Hillel brought for us to say a blessing with. It tasted like honey. And was a very sweet way to start our trip, with everyone so happy to be together.
We then had dinner on rooftop of the Mamilla Hotel where miraculously, everybody was wide awake. And the food was good. I had cured beef served with caper berries, pearl onions and a mustard sauce. And this Red Drum fish (a type of bass) served with an exquisitely green-tasting creamy pea sauce.
Then off to bed because the itinerary for the next day looked like this:
- 8:30 Leave hotel. Travel to the Judaean desert.
- 9:45 Masada. Ascend either in cable cart or by climbing the Snake Route.
- 13:00 Lunch at the Hotel Ein Gedi coffee shop.
- 14:00 Hike up to the Ein Gedi waterfall and swim.
- 15:30 Swim in the Dead Sea, cover selves in mud.
- 18:45 Eretz Bereshit (Genesis Land) for a camel ride and dinner.
- Back to the hotel.
Seriously. This was Day 1. And it was fricking amazing.
Masada is where Herod built his fortress. And it’s also where a mass suicide of Jewish rebels took place. They chose to die rather than be captured by the Romans. The history here is overwhelming.
Everyone who takes a trip to Israel must go to the top of Masada where all of the historic artifacts are and where the view is amazing. And you have a choice of either taking a cable car to the top or climbing up the Snake Path, a two mile winding trail up the mountain with change in elevation of 1,300 feet.
So of course, in the 95 degree heat, I chose to climb. Because, I didn’t travel all that way to be a spectator. And I climbed along with my son, my daughter, my nephew, my brother and my sister-in-law. My brother ran all the way up because he is, well, insane. My son ran part way with him but then had to stop and throw-up. And about half way up, I started having flashbacks of that 35 mile bike ride my husband and I took in the Nevada desert.
I was so hot and tired that I didn’t think I could go any further. But I was with my 12 year-old daughter and I didn’t want to scare her. Plus, I wanted to be a good role model and have a can-do attitude. My savior that day was my sister-in-law who coaxed me up to the top with words of encouragement and with a sense of humor. My bond with her became even stronger on that day. She knew what I needed to get up to the top. She got me. And I love her even more because of that. (Thanks Stuffy.)
The rest of the day was wonderful but nothing compared to the sense of accomplishment I felt for climbing the Snake Path and the pride I felt in my kids for doing it as well.
A few other highlights included climbing to the second waterfall at Ein Gedi and watching my sister-in-law get her hair wet. Floating in the Dead Sea and listening to members of my family pronounce which parts of their bodies were stinging from the salt. (I bite my cuticles. They really hurt. Others had anus issues. Don’t ask.) Tasting my first Shakshuka, eggs poached in a skillet with a perfectly spiced tomato sauce.
And of course, riding a camel.
I fell in to bed that night, after a shower of course, thinking it incomprehensible that we had only just arrived the day before. I didn’t think for very long because the next thing I knew, my iPhone alarm was going off. It was 7:30 am. Time to start Day 2.