Israel (March 2019)

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In stark contrast to “World Business Class,” the KLM business class flight from Amsterdam>Tel Aviv was terrible.

As I soon learned, “European Business Class” means economy plus – the seats are normal economy class with the middle seat blocked out with a red plastic kid seat.  That wasn’t the worst part: the plane was super cold, my feet froze when I put them on the floor.  I was so tired by that point after the layover, so I just rolled up into a ball and went to sleep.

I finally arrived at Ben Gurion (TLV) Airport early in the morning around 4am.  I was tired having not slept much for 36 hours.  I was excited to land in the Middle East for the first time and couldn’t wait to start exploring.

The first thing that stands out the most about Israel is the mass tourism.  It’s packed wall-to-wall tourists everywhere.  Tons of Americans and Asians.  Almost every hotel and hostel was packed.  Lines for everything, everywhere, all day long. 

Traffic sucked – bumper to bumper in many parts, tons of traffic congestion – that was a bummer. 

I just didn’t expect that many tourists … 

It’s not cheap either – food and drink are a bit more expensive than back in the United States, presumably due to the high 18% VAT rate.

Tel Aviv is nice, it reminded me of San Diego.  I booked my trip via Tourist Israel which sub-booked all my day trips with Ben Harim, one of the larger tour operators.  All the guides were fine. I’m glad I did a group tour as it would otherwise just be way too complicated going alone trying to read signs in Hebrew, but I sure did miss the spontaneity of solo travel.

Nazareth was ok.  I didn’t get too much out of it.   

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The River Jordan was a bit underwhelming and, as I already mentioned, just absolutely flooded with tourists into a small area of the Jordan River, which is otherwise mostly uninhabited.

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Old Jerusalem was the highlight – it was like going back in time a couple thousand years. 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was crucified and where he was buried, was a visual wonder — the church is all candle lit, with light shafts coming through windows.  A photographer’s dream place to take pictures. 

Walking the Arab merchant alleys with all the random stuff was fascinating.  I got to visit the wailing wall and put some notes in it for my parents – that was one of the major reasons for me going in the first place.

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Masada was an unexpected surprise – it’s like the Israeli version of The Alamo.  I enjoyed that place with great views out upon the Dead Sea. 

The soak in the Dead Sea was a bit of a hassle and hard to reach (again, a boat load of tourists crowding into a small confined area, even though the entire rest of the Dead Sea coast is nearly deserted) but I’m glad I got to do it. 

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