This post is the second installment in the Holy Land series of our 2014 trip. Fresh off the plane, we got out of the airport with very little fanfare. An interesting tidbit about passport stamps in Israel—they gave us a small slip of paper that had our photo on it—a visa stamp that was not a permanent stamp in the passport. I’m thinking that’s to avoid complications for travelers who want to visit countries not so pro-Israel. Upon exiting the concourse, I saw a huge mezuzah adorning the wall. (A mezuzah is a blessing that is wrapped in a case—something you’ll see on the doors of Jewish homes and businesses.) Anyhoo, we were met by our guide and whisked off to stretch our legs in the ancient city of Jaffa.
First Stop: Jaffa
Jaffa is a 4,000 year old town on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, which is only about 100 years old. In Israel, our guide says that in order to be considered old, a building, ruin, or relic must be about 1,000 years old or more. Several hundred years is considered new.
We walked to the top of a Tel, a man-made hill, and saw layers of excavation revealing the remnants of cultures from thousands of years ago. Before the modern age where we demolish and remove structures, people established towns by building on top of the ruins of previous inhabitants. This created layers of history that we now explore and learn from.
Jaffe is on the coast of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. As we looked out over a marina, our guide told us the story of Andromeda and Perseus—the rocks Andromeda was placed on as a sacrifice (and that represent her) are said to be located off the shore near this little marina.
The Adventure of the Israeli Meal
After walking through a lovely artistic area, we sat down for our first meal. The owner placed a number of small bowls of various items on our table. Evidently in Israel, traditionally you are given a salad which is comprised of a number of bowls filled with delicious treats such as carrots, potatoes, eggplant, corn, humus, and baba ganush (among other dishes). The baba ganush was yummy and so were the flatbread pitas they brought us. We ordered some falafel and enjoyed the outside café with our new feline friends who came by for handouts. LOTS of cats run around wild in Israel. People feed them scraps and they earn their keep by keeping the rodents away.
Throughout our stay we tried a number of dishes we weren’t quite sure about that turned out to be delicious. A staple over there is a sandwich called a Shawarma—turkey that is cooked in lamb’s fat or oil, salad items, and humus wrapped in a big pita. YUM! On our first night, mom and I went exploring and sat down for a meal where the language barrier was a challenge. So we tried some soup called Kubu which turned out to be a delicious stew. We identified some meat and beets and decided it deserved two thumbs up.
Home Away from Home
Our home in Jerusalem for the next few days was an apartment, the Avissar House, located just a few minutes walk from the Jaffa Gate. It had a little terrace on the roof where I spent several wonderful nights under the stars looking across the road at the walls of the Old City and listening to the sounds of the night—a concert, some young people laughing, dogs, and the breezes through the pines around the neighborhood. Our landlord Yoseph was a kind gentlemen and we loved our accommodations nestled in a very cute pedestrian cobble-stoned street below the Montefiore Windmill in Yemin Moshe. Once we got settled and had a nice walk through the neighborhood to explore, we prepared for the day ahead, and with that we’ll explore the Old City of Jerusalem in the next post.