We were getting close to land and I had to confess I was nervous. On the one hand it was a feeling of happiness, knowing that I was so close to arriving to this special country for the second time after so many years. In that first opportunity I was there during a time of relative peace, over ten years ago, and on the other hand the new developments in the regional situation in this part of the world was not helping me to feel at ease. It was kind of funny I was flying in Turkish Airlines and it was until that moment that I realized I was on board on one of only two regular flights from a Muslim country to Israel. The international airport of Ben Gurion is a nice modern one it is halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem security is tight and the passenger notices this as soon as one lands there. In the short walk from my arrival to immigration I was able to see several security agents who took aside random passengers to interrogate them. I did not have any problem in my case and I crossed immigration quite fast.
Some of my friends back home said that I was a little crazy for doing this trip. In Israel everything is more expensive than in the U.S. and Europe, the only good deal of the trip was the car rental. I got an almost new car and I added a GPS thinking that I didn’t want to deal with Hebrew and Arabic address only to find out soon that all the signs here are in English. From the airport to the city it is only a 20 minute ride. Tel Aviv is a very modern active and secular city. The beach is always full of people until late in the evening. We chose a nice beachfront hotel. The following day was the first of one of the most interesting Jewish festivals, Succoth. As soon as we arrived to the lobby of the hotel we noticed several tents there, people eat and feast as part of the seven day long celebration. So the following morning we decided to ride bikes to Jaffa, about a 25 minute trek from the hotel. In many ways this city reminds me of Miami, beautiful beaches it has massive sky scrapers sunny days and a laid back atmosphere. Jaffa is a must see for the visitor, it is famous for its tales such as the one of Jonah or the presence of the followers of Christ. Even when it is in the midst of such a secular city like Tel Aviv, one soon realizes that everything here is related with the Bible or the Koran. It is the preferred weekend destination for the locals so there are many good restaurants and unique boutique hotels.
Around noon we took off for Cesarea, it is a well kept complex of ruins with the ancient harbor built by Herod, we had lunch at a restaurant inside the archeological park with an amazing view of the ancient port. Here it is possible to notice the footprints of many different groups: Romans Jews Muslims Crusaders and finally the Muslims again and it has since been uninhabited. It is still possible to see part of the walls, aqueducts and the theater of that massive city are a real worth while visit.
Our trip later took us to Mount Carmel. This is very close to the modern city of Haifa. We were drawn there by the stories of Elijah, centuries after the presence of this prophet monks came to this place and established themselves here until today. From the peak of the mountain it is possible to admire a valley that is not too far off: Megiddo, the place of the legendary battle of Armageddon. The view is really breathtaking. Haifa is a city that requires more than a day to visit, but there is so much to see in Israel, so many places to see from history but it is impossible to cover all of them. At this point after just a few hours we agreed that the idea of renting a car was great, we saw that the flexibility it offered in terms of where to go or where we wished to stop. We enjoyed a great dinner before heading off to Jerusalem. It was amazing to think that we had been only two days in the country and already all our fears and anxieties provoked by the comments of friends had disappeared. In our hearts we had the peace and happiness of enjoying one of the most beautiful and meaningful countries on earth, still the most powerful experience was awaiting for us in Jerusalem, a city that deserves a completely separate post.