Israel First Impressions

IMG_4232 Well, we’ve been in Israel a little less than a week and I’m in love! The warmer climate is a major plus for me- we’ve tried to spend as much time outside enjoying the sunshine as possible. We’re staying at a hotel right on the beach, so my boys are happy digging in the sand. Here are a few things we’ve noticed about Israel:

  • The food is SO GOOD! Mediterranean food is amazing and fresh and simple and yummy. Our first day in Haifa, we ate at this little cafe. I ordered tabbouleh salad, which is usually a grain salad with parsley and other herbs and veggies. What came out at the restaurant was mostly parsley and mint, with some flecks of cracked wheat and lemon juice. I ate it with pita bread and it was ridiculously good. This morning, I had a salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, parsley and lemon juice. I’m not sure how they make something so delicious from those simple ingredients, but I crave it now instead of sweets. Don’t even get me started on the bread. I guess the common denominator is fresh, ripe produce, and fresh-baked bread. Austin is very impressed with the selection of interesting cheeses at breakfast, and they fill some pastries and make a cake with this really light whipped cheese that is super delicious. I’m not sure what it is, because not all the descriptions are in English, but it has been fun to try all the delicious foods.
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View from Mt. Carmel
  • Everything is in Hebrew: We are used to visiting other countries and not being able to understand the language. However, there are usually some signs in English to help us. There are some signs in English, especially for prominent tourist sites, but it is very difficult to find simple things like a laundromat. I spent an hour driving around Haifa looking for a laundromat last night because Google doesn’t work very well in English, in Israel, and I can’t search in Hebrew.
  •  Israelis are reserved, but generally happy/friendly. The boys are great ice breakers when we’re walking around, and people will smile and wave, or give thumbs up.
  • Israelis are active people! Our room looks out over a walkway along the beach, and there are lots of people walking, jogging, surfing, biking, roller blading, you name it! Every age group, men and women are out and about exercising. I’ve seen older people getting in the water for a dip every day. They seem to be very healthy and active.
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Sea of Galilee from Tiberias
  • The scenery is gorgeous! Whether it is the lovely water of the Mediterranean or the mountains, fields of wildflowers or the Sea of Galilee, it is so beautiful in this area of the country! After spending time around the Sea of Galilee over the weekend, we talked about how now we know why Jesus chose this area to be born and live his life. It is a wonderful, beautiful place!
  • Christianity is alive and well in the form of zillions of tourists/ tour buses. If I was not a perpetual traveler, and didn’t have small children, I would totally travel to Israel with a tour group. Having a guide, having everything planned for you, going to all the major Christian sites- sounds like a dream! Well, many people also had that thought because everywhere we go there are tons of tour buses. Thankfully, there is usually an area for normal cars to park, but man, there are so many buses! The sites we have visited are large enough that even with so many buses, it didn’t seem like the sites were full of tourists, but it is unreal. It’s wonderful to see so many feel strongly enough about their faith in Jesus Christ to come to the Holy Land and walk where he walked, but it is kinda annoying for us self-touring folks.
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Haifa coastline
  • Driving here is CRAZY! For the past few months in the U.S., we have been driving a GMC Yukon, a giant SUV. Here, we have a mid-size Subaru. When Austin was driving over the weekend, he kept saying, “Rally car!” and after driving around Haifa last night, I finally understand why. The roads are all very curvy, with lots of roundabouts. Everyone drives fast, and when I was driving it almost felt like I was in a car racing video game! I felt like I had to go a certain speed to not be in the way, and I definitely got honked at a few times for going slow.
  • Contours to the land! In the Chicago area, we’re lucky to see a few very small, man-made hills close to the lake, and the very slightest of elevation changes out in the suburbs. Here in Haifa, the whole city is built up a mountain, and there are lots of springs cutting through making ravines that separate the city into neighborhoods and sections. Google is not my friend this trip. I thought I had found a laundry place, and that it was within running distance. So, I packed up all of our dirty laundry and both boys in the stroller and started the navigation system. It was taking me a different way than I thought we should go, but I thought maybe it was a shortcut. Well, we got into one of the ravines and then Google told me to go straight up a staircase. The stairs were so high I was very discouraged from trying to get the stroller and all of our clothes and both boys up to the top of the mountain. But, I thought it would be a great workout, so I started up. When I got to the top, the stairs just abruptly ended before reaching a road, and there was no way I could get the stroller up to the road over loose rock on a small hiking trail with a sharp incline, so we gave up and went back down the mountain. I’m still sore from lugging the stroller up and down the stairs, and we STILL have dirty laundry because I couldn’t find a stinkin laundromat even driving. Can you tell we’re up to our necks in dirty laundry?!
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Cool coastal park!
  • Israel is OLD. Israel is a relatively young country, but with history going back forever! I thought the stuff in Korea was old, but there are much older things here. We visited a cave with bowls carved into the rock thought to have been used by the earliest hominids thousands upon thousands of years ago. We’re planning on visiting Roman ruins, the Temple Mount and Western Wall, and other ruins of buildings built at the time of Christ or earlier. It is overwhelming being in a place with so much history, and so much Biblical history. The Bible stories that are set in this country are dear to me, and I’m totally geeking out that we’re here and seeing these amazing places!

 

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Capernaum, with the White Synagogue, built over a synagogue where Jesus may have taught!

Israel is wonderful so far. I love it, except for trying to find a big supermarket and a laundromat. You know, the things we need to live. But, I love the scenery, the food, the people, the weather, the history and the sights. Stay tuned for more detailed posts of our adventures in Israel!

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