During my time living in Sweden in 2010 I decided to take the opportunity to visit several Israeli friends that I had met while travelling through Southeast Asia who lived near Tel Aviv, along with an old university friend who was living and working in Jerusalem and nearby town on Ramallah. I would spend nearly two weeks intrepidly travelling around Israel and The West Bank during the month of November which I would recommend as you’ll avoid the heat and crowds of summer, but the cold of the winter months (the inland areas near the Galilee Sea and Jerusalem often receive snowfalls over the winter months).
Israel is not a big country by international standards, but despite its size it has a profile befitting of a large nation often because it dominates world headlines on account of its turbulent recent history, but also because it’s ancient history and the significance to three of the world’s most influential religions. Many of Judaism, Christian and Islam’s holiest sites are located within Israel and The West Bank so any religious or person curious about human history will find any visit to the region fascinating.
I would arrive into Israel’s main airport – the Ben Gurion Airport – which is a short drive to Tel Aviv where I initially stayed at one of the many hostels aimed at budget and intrepid travellers. Tel Aviv is a fascinating mix of the old and new with areas of the old town in Jaffa reminding you the ‘traditional’ Middle East while the more modern, cosmopolitan Tel Aviv reminded me of another modern seaside city; Los Angeles. I would discover that Tel Aviv is quite different from other Israeli cities and not just because of its vibrant nightlife but also due to its more tolerant surprisingly liberal attitude, reminiscent of a modern western European city rather than a Middle Eastern one.
After my time in Tel Aviv had come to an end, I travelled up the coast and explored the ancient coastal town of Caesarea, the fascinating walled Old Town of Acre and port town of Haifa. While in Haifa I had arranged to stay with a local couch surfing girl to join me while I visited the nearby attractions but also to learn more about the people and local life firsthand. I always find my couchsurfing experiences to be a great addition to any intrepid journey.
The next destination on my journey around Israel involved boarding a local bus from Haifa to the inland town of Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee made famous as the ‘sea’ Jesus walked on. The countryside enroute to Tiberias and around the Galilee and Golan Heights is particularly stunning and well worth a visit especially seeing the distances around Israel are not great. From Tiberias I would next venture to Jerusalem, Israel’s Cultural Heart.