Tel Aviv!

It seems that we left Tel Aviv at the perfect time! Yesterday, Allison told me about how Syria claimed Israel launched a rocket that his Damascus and claims it was an act of war. I’m sure my parents are glad I am safe and sound back in Amman, but I’m sure this trip wasn’t the last time I will be in Israel. Out of all the places my friends and I have traveled, I liked Jerusalem the best. This past trip to Tel Aviv and Istanbul was great, but the cities just can’t compare to the incredible hybrid of history and modern entertainment that Jerusalem has to offer.

Luckily for me, we got to travel back to Jerusalem on our way to Tel Aviv! We crossed the same Jordan/Palestine border and took the same shuttle to Jerusalem in order to catch our bus to Tel Aviv. The border patrol took extremely long this time. The entire trip from Amman to Jerusalem took about 5 hours! Despite my love for Jerusalem, it just doesn’t have the same love for me. Last time, I lost my iPhone there. This time, all forms of transportation seemed to go awry! First, we boarded the wrong train to the bus station. After realizing this, we tried to board a train going the other way without purchasing another ticket. Of course, the metro police were checking tickets on this train but somehow managed to never ask for ours. Once we found the bus station, we bought our tickets and boarded the bus. The schedule said it was supposed to leave at 1:40. It was only 1:30, so Allison and I left to go buy water inside the terminal. We were literally 20 steps away from the bus. Once we bought water, we returned to find the bus gone! We ran through the parking garage until we found it. Luckily Caroline had stayed on board and convinced the bus driver to wait for us since the bus had departed 10 minutes early. When we returned to our seats, we heard the Israelis grumbling, saying, “Of course they’re American!”

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When we arrived in the bus station in Tel Aviv, Caroline’s friend Maike came and picked us up to take us back to her house where we were staying. That night, we met one of Maike’s friends and went to her apartment before going out to dinner on the coast. I got to try the “only true 100% Israeli product.” It was a snack food that had the same shape and crunch as cheetos, but instead of cheese, it tasted like peanut butter! These snacks are called Bamba.

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The next day, we went on a road-trip with Maike to Northern Israel to see the other famous cities. Our first stop was in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. We went to the Church of the Annunciation, but I wasn’t allowed inside since my dress was sleeveless and too short. Apparently I am too scandalous for all religions!

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KFC in Nazareth!

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In front of the gates to the Church of the Annunciation

Next, we went to Tiberius which is the town on the coast of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus fed fish to 500 people and walked on water. After spending 30 minutes getting lost, we continued on to the northern most point on the coast. This spot had a gorgeous view of the coast and we could see all the way to Haifa! We also saw the old border crossing to Lebanon.

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On the drive home, we saw Haifa. I considered studying abroad in Haifa but ultimately chose Amman, Greece, and Istanbul as my top three choices. After seeing Haifa, which is an important port city and industrial hub of the country, I am glad I chose Amman. Haifa resembled the rust belt of the US and the Bahai Gardens were the only beautiful thing we saw. Also, on the drive home, a sudden fog descended upon the highway. It happened so suddenly and smelled so bad that we briefly considered it being chemical weapons from Syria. I couldn’t imagine living in a country where the threat of attack was constant. I feel so safe in America and Amman.

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That night, we went downtown and met a few more of Maike’s friends. I met a few Canadians who moved to Israel to join the Israeli Defense Force. Although it sounds intimidating, everyone has to join the IDF – both male and female. I learned that escaping service is highly frowned upon and most Israeli celebrities manage to do so, resulting in the loss of fans from their own country. Maike told us that her younger brother has been training for the IDF for two years and is extremely excited to turn 18 next year so he can finally join.

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Me, Caroline, and Maike

Since our flight to Istanbul was at 5am, we went straight to the airport at 2:30am. I expected it to be deserted, but it was perhaps the most crowded airport I’ve ever seen! We were deemed “suspicious” since our passports had Egyptian and Jordanian stamps, so we were taken for extra security inspection. My entire bag was emptied and I was taken into the back room where a woman had me unbutton my pants and performed a full body pat down and wand search. I understand why the Israelis did this and America performs the type of profiling. We weren’t late for our flight, so it didn’t bother me. Allison, on the other hand, was outraged by the entire ordeal. I am still hearing daily stories about her horrible experience at Ben-Gurion International Airport!

As usual, if you want to see more pictures from Tel Aviv, you can see my Facebook album here!

I will schedule my blog to publish the post about Istanbul in a few days since we are leaving for Dubai tomorrow night! Our couchsurfing efforts failed in Tel Aviv and Istanbul, but we finally found a nice lady in Dubai who agreed to host us and show us around the city. I will be back on Friday!

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