13 Reasons Why You Need to go to Israel
Israel isn’t the first place you think of when I scream “relaxing sunshine retreat” in your face.
I need to stop doing that really. But please stop crying, Kriss Herbert and I (Producer Jake) have just spent a few days out there, soaking up the sun and taking in the rich culture and variety of activities this med coast country has to offer!
We visited the sea-side city of Tel Aviv and the inland capital, Jerusalem.
LISTEN: Highlights of Kriss & Jake in Tel Aviv & Jeruslalem
We were skeptical at first, but the country wooed us over! So here’s 13 reasons why you need to go to Israel. Now.
1. There’s Wi-Fi. EVERYWHERE.
These guys love their hotspots, and you’ll struggle to find a popular public place without a free-to-connect server. Half the time you don’t even need to enter any information, it just connects! And everywhere you go is more than happy to log you on.
Very useful if, like me, data on your mobile costs £6 per megabyte in this country. Whilst data roaming charges have just been abolished for European countries, it is important to remember that that does not include Israel!
2. Tel Aviv has an amazing beach.
I can’t believe I never knew about this beach before!
A bucket and spade in Blackpool might be a picture postcard, but Tel Aviv has one of the most gorgeous stretches of sand I’ve ever seen. When you step onto the beach you’re initially taken aback by the temperature of the sand on your bare feet. You lightly skip to the shoreline and to the beckoning, welcoming waves of the Mediterranean. There’s not many people on the beach. Certainly not as many as somewhere like Spain or the south of France.
There are rock barriers just offshore to protect the beach, and this makes the waters very shallow. Not much room for swimming, but go for a paddle. Maybe get down on your knees. Taste the occasional splashes of warm, salty drips over your face. Whip out a couple paddles. Hold onto your balls: there are currents in places (but not everywhere, they’re clearly labelled), so one whack too far might mean your game of ping-pong might climax a bit too early, and you’re out of balls!
3. There’s Hummus.
I discovered hummus in Israel. Have you had hummus? The sheer availability of hummus in Israel is untrue. We had a bowl of hummus in a gorgeous restaurant ran by some lovely Bedouin’s, by the Dead Sea, and I think I dipped all my food into this bowl. The bread, the chicken, the lamb, the tapas. It was amazing. The creamiest thing I’ve had in my mouth in a while.
4. If you’re not a fan of hummus, the rest of the food is extensive, and rather familiar.
Israel is full of so many influences. We went for an evening meal in a food market with many stalls that featured sushi, American, two Italians, several veggie/ vegan stands….nothing inherently “Israeli”. I asked a local why there wasn’t much local cuisine and her answer was that Israeli’s preferred food from other places!
5. The Dead Sea
A MUST. Go for a bob in the saltiest stretch of water on earth. You’ll love it. Baking temperatures. Refreshingly warm water. A gorgeous, light breeze. A towel on arrival (at the spa we went to at least). Stretching out in front of you for nearly ten miles, the salty serene beckons, whilst it rests beneath the hazy mountains of Jordan in the far off distance. Apparently they turn pink when the sun sets!
Being 30% salt, the Dead Sea isn’t the place for a swim: you go there to float! You’re only allowed to bob for 20 minutes at a time, then you come out and have a quick dry/ sunbathe. Good for your skin apparently, all that salt.
(Kriss is not wearing socks, those are flip flops)
But trust me, don’t get those salty drips in your eyes. It happened to Kriss Herbert. He put his head back to see if it would float and a massive wave went over him.
(This is what not to do)
He was stuck in the water by himself for about five minutes in a stinging panic. What was I doing at this point? I think I was sunbathing, staring up at the blank, blue sky, feeling the heat wrap around me like a blanket. Chatting with my beach neighbours.
I didn’t laugh too much when he made it back and told us what happened. Honest.
6. Everyone is really, really friendly!
If you’re wandering around downtown Jerusalem at half ten at night looking for the club, two people on separate phones checking Maps pointing in completely opposite directions, someone getting cash out, and someone seizing the opportunity to get a low light selfie in front of an Israeli Maccies, you can be the person asking literally anyone for directions – and everyone will try their best to help! The locals are very welcoming and happy to talk to you. That goes whether you’re in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv as well!
7. You cannot escape the historical significance of Jerusalem!
We’ve all heard of this amazing city. It’s mentioned in many religious texts, and is often called one of the holiest places on earth. But you don’t need to be religious to fall in love with this place!
The setting alone is staggering. One minute, you find yourself in a huge courtyard surrounded by people of faith. There’s school children no older than six sat in the shade—singing with their teachers, blessing the food they just had from their packed-lunch boxes. The sun is beating down hard, but you’re stood in the shade, gazing in awe in front of you at the huge Wailing Wall, one of the last standing parts of Temple Mount, prayers and letters rolled up and inserted into the many cracks in the stonework whilst tiny birds sing and fly around overhead, looking down on the peaceful commotion. People stand at the bottom deep in prayer, reading passages from holy texts.
Literally in the next moment, you walk under an archway and find yourself in a bustling market descending down an incredibly long network of narrow, shaded alleyways. There are people selling clothes, food, crockery, magnets, and jewellery, along with about a thousand other things.
This network of ginnel’s absorbs most of the old part of Jerusalem. These are the streets where it’s believed Jesus carried the cross on the day of his crucifixion. Plaques on the wall read roman numerals. I. II. III. IV. V. Each represents a significant moment on his walk: where he fell, where he was helped, where his mother Mary came to his aid. A tour guide here is useful but not essential. You follow Jesus’ journey to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where his journey ended, climbing shallow steps over centuries-old paving slabs.
And that’s all just in 15 minutes of walking through the city.
8. It’s so incredibly warm
If you think holding a cup of tea in a polystyrene cup is warm then you’ve experienced nothing. Israel is gorgeous and hot, with enough buildings to provide refreshing shade when you need it. Being at the very end of the Mediterranean means there’s always a nice breeze on the coast at Tel Aviv. Pack suntan lotion, and make sure you’ve got a hat!
9. At no point do you feel in danger.
The media sometimes paints a negative picture of the situation in Israel. But when you get there you feel so unbelievably relaxed. The buses are running. The street-lights are lit. People are going about living their lives. You needn’t worry!
10. THERE’S CAMELS
Travel east and you may see some!
11. Israel a lot easier to get to than you'd think!
Flights to Israel go from London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester Airport with Monarch and EasyJet. We flew with Monarch, and enjoyed a very nice 5 hour flight!
12.The Tel Aviv LGBT scene
Kriss and I were there during Tel Aviv Pride. And, as you do, we took in the local LGBT scene. The Pride is one of the largest on the planet. 200,000 people flock to the city for the annual event. People from all walks of life, all faiths, all backgrounds: all there to celebrate diversity. And they celebrate in style!
Perez Hilton was the international ambassador for Tel Aviv Pride, and we grabbed a chat with him which you can hear here:
He told us that his favourite part about Tel Aviv is how there was no gay scene. There was no particular part of town set aside for the LGBT community, because everywhere was welcome and LGBT friendly. You walk around and there’s Pride flags in every window in every business.
13. The contrasting Jerusalem gay scene.
Jerusalem appears to have one gay bar. It’s called Toy Bar, and it’s right in the centre. I could describe it as small. In fact, I will describe it as small. There’s a bar in the entranceway. A corridor that leads from the outside seating area to the dancefloor. The dancefloor is a very small room. It’s literally the same size as that place you go to get your keys cut at the supermarket.
Like Tel Aviv, however, you can find that you can go anywhere else and you’ll still have a good time. Have a look for Gatsby. There have good cocktails there. If you can find where they are!
Something to remember: the Jewish Sabbath starts on Friday evening and goes on until Saturday evening. In this time, few places are open. Basically all public transport stops. It’s a time people spend with their families. But the second 10pm hits on Saturday night, the city will wake up.
If you’d like to follow in our footsteps and take in Israel for yourself, flights to Tel Aviv are cheap and plentiful! Check out citiesbreak.com for more info!