Tel Aviv: I love cities by the sea. A fun way to explore the city is renting a green TeloFun bike, the city's ecofriendly bike share system.
There is a certain initial aggression that permeates the air here in Israel. I'm not certain whether that is because of the harsh syllables of a language I cannot decipher (the raspy Hebrew "hat" and "raish" sounds that come from the back of one's throat), or the centuries of war and bloodshed that were fought over these lands, or the fact that it's mandatory for every Israeli to do military service for three years of their youth, that gives this country the impression of being "playfully aggressive".
Israeli military hanging out with a machine gun in a public square in Jerusalem.
Like the fruit that is ubiquitous in their fresh fruit markets, the pomegranate (or rimmon as they call it in Hebrew), there is a toughness here that appears harsh and impenetrable on the surface.
Fresh pomegranates (rimmon) in the market
Vendors shouting their wares at the market, claiming that they are best at what they do, luring and enticing you into a room of knick knacks for the best prices. Insulting you if you do not buy.
Knicks-knacks from The Arab souk (market) in Jerusalem's Old City.
Yet an aggression like this is not unfounded within a land with such a history of political neuroses. By this, I mean a land comprised of peoples who have long fought to establish their political borders.
With the Israeli border police
Sunrise at The Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret), where Jesus walked on water.
The Ancient City of Akko (Acre), a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Floating at the Dead Sea, where Jesus could walk on water even if he wasn't Jesus.
Oh, if these walls could talk. Walking through the streets of Old Jaffa
House of Simon the Tanner in Old Jaffa, where St. Peter had his dream about spreading Christianity to gentiles.
Strolling around the Jaffa Flea Market where you can find anything from Iranian carpets to vintage Toulouse-Lautrec posters and more.
Box of old photographs for sale at the Jaffa Flea Market
This hostility is coupled with a sense of humor and forgiving charm that masks a certain insecurity of a very newly established country. Remember, there was no State of Israel before 1948. This was hard fought land and the Israeli government has invested a lot of money to defend it. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel spent 6.2% of their GDP in 2012 on military expenditure. That's a significant sum for such a small country.
Camel on the side of the road at the Sea Level Monument.
The playful yet aggressive humor and charm of the locals expose harsh truths in digestible bite-size pieces. Here, talks of bombs and guns are matter-of-fact and casual, even over dinner. It comes with little drama, and perhaps even a joke or three. The locals I met during my stay have a great sense of humor, although it may run rather dark.
Israeli GoldStar Beer with an Onion Loaf at Decks Restaurant in Tiberias
Israeli Breakfast of hummus, Israeli salad and labaneh (strained yogurt) at David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel-Aviv
Making shakshuka, eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions and cumin at Dr. Shakshuka
It is their reality (whether we judge it to be harsh or not) that the land they are living on has always been historically a very politically coveted land - the epicenter of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.
Wailing at The Kotel aka The Western Wall
Golgotha Altar, the site where Jesus was crucified, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
They know what they have and they don't take it for granted. There is a very strong work ethic here and food does not go to waste. And once you understand what the cacophony of Hebrew actually means, it's not that aggressive at all... but instead liberal, witty, creative, open-minded, community-oriented and warm.
Iron Sheep Art at The Efendi Hotel in Akko
Dancing on the Bar. Just a crazy Friday night out in Tel Aviv at Ilka Bar. Make sure you go out on a Friday night for a real taste of Tel Aviv nightlife. Saturday nights are pretty chill because the workweek begins on Sunday.
Penis wall hooks by Israeli artist, Ilana Goor, at her museum in Jaffa.
Like the tough exterior of their national fruit, once you crack open the surface of Israel, there is a multi-faceted feast - a cornucopia of cultures, religions and races (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, German, Yemenite and more) that co-exist side by side. I feel that in the seven days that I've traveled through Israel, I've only cracked the surface of this rimmon. I will definitely be back again soon to taste more of the fruit.
Meanwhile, I'll just dream of the delicious desserts...
Vanilla Soy Ice Cream with Halva (crushed sesame seeds and honey) at Hatchazer in Jerusalem
The Dead Sea
The Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret)
The Kotel (Western Wall) in The Old City, Jerusalem
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem - HaZikaron, Jerusalem, 91034, Israel +972 2-644-3400
Uri Buri Fish and Seafood Restaurant - HaHagana 11, Acre, 24315, Israel +972 4-955-2212
Dr. Shakshuka - Beit Eshel 3, Tel Aviv, 68025, Israel +972 3-682-2842
Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem
Jaffa Flea Market - East of the Clock Tower,Tel Aviv, Israel +972 3-527-2691
Ahava - Natural Dead Sea Bath Products
Nightlife in Tel Aviv
Radio EPGB - Shadal 7, Tel Aviv, 65781, Israel +972 3-560-3636
Rothschild 12 - 12 Rothschild Blvd, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel +972 3-510-6430
Ilka Bar - Dizengoff 148, Tel Aviv, Israel +972 54-803-0706
Nanuchka - Lilienblum 30, Tel Aviv, Israel +972 3-516-2254