Sunday, October 23, 2016

Israel Recap Part 2

We made it to Israel! Finally haha if you missed the story of how we got there, just read this.

We were in Israel for a full week so I won't bore you all with a detailed itinerary of what we did everyday, so instead I'll just focus on my favorite sites and some interesting things about Israel. I have linked some of the text to websites that will explain the historical/religious significance of some of the places I mention so if you want to learn more and see other photos of the places/things I talk about, you can!

My parents reunited with their luggage after four harrowing days apart. 

What's fascinating about Israel is how it is such an important place for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The city of Jerusalem especially has religious significance for all of those religions. This makes for an interesting intersection of beliefs, customs, and traditions. All three of these belief systems are quite different, but I was also shocked at how many similarities there are between the three religions, including my own. Sometimes I think we get so caught up on our differences, especially in terms of religion, that we forget that most of us share MANY common beliefs. I have always enjoyed learning about other religions so I really liked getting to see more people practice their religions in everyday life rather than just reading about it in textbooks.

For obvious reasons, there are MANY orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. The very orthodox Jews keep their Sabbath especially holy. They walk everywhere they go, don't cook, don't work, among many other things. Because there is such a large population of them in Jerusalem, their Sabbath (Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown), really affects the city. The public transportation shuts down completely, hotels have a special elevator that stops on every floor so they don't have to push any buttons, and all Jewish stores/restaurants shut down for 24 hours. While some of these things proved to be a bit inconvenient for us tourists, it was really touching to see so many people respecting their religion. They are way more inconvenienced than we are, and they do it willingly. I have a lot of respect for anyone who lives their lives so devotedly.

Israel definitely has a different feel/culture than anywhere else I have been. Jerusalem is a very conservative city so you have to be very careful regarding how you act/dress. For example, I didn't wear anything form-fitting and at certain religious sites (such as Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall), my arms, neck, and ankles had to be completely covered. Since I try to dress modestly for religious reasons myself, it was really interesting to see people even more covered up in very hot weather. Both orthodox Jews and Muslims dress VERY conservatively. It made me really admire them for respecting their bodies and religion so much. I'm not used to being dressed in a more revealing manner than other people haha. Normally I'm the most covered up wherever we go. Of course, some tourists do wear more Western style clothing that you would see in the States, but I wanted to err on the side of being too conservative.

The food was AMAZING. I love falafel, hummus, rice, etc. so I fit right in. Breakfast foods were a little dicey at our hotel haha lots of savory foods. Not a lot of fruit at breakfast. But we were able to get fresh squeezed juices from vendors pretty much anywhere we went and those were delicious. So tasty and flavorful. While walking past one juice stand the owner yelled out to us "This is where Jesus had his first juice!!" We all laughed. They're good at appealing to Christian tourists.

I really love falafel.

The weather was overall quite nice while we were there, albeit a bit warm at times. The high most days was in the 80's with no shade, I definitely felt like I was baking on more than one occasion. Fans and sun umbrellas helped a lot though and thankfully I never passed out or anything. Just sweated a lot.

Mom and I with our trusty fans.

Overall, I felt really good during the trip. It was definitely physically exhausting at times and I walked slowly as we climbed hills (Jerusalem is not flat AT ALL). But we had a lovely tour van we got to ride in that was comfy and air conditioned. I was really fortunate to feel so good and be able to participate in all the activities.

My sister-in-law-to-be on a real camel. 

Me on a fake camel. I guess they don't let pregnant people ride camels.

They also would not let me on the donkey.

Here are some of my favorite places we visited: 

Sea of Galilee: I mean it's just stunning. The water is so blue and I loved getting to see the Galilee boat.

Church of the Beatitudes where the Sermon on the Mount took place overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Caesara: The ruins were really interesting and it sits right on the Mediterranean. I enjoyed learning about the history of such an ancient city and being surrounded by the water.

The family near Caesara on the beach. Dad looking sassy.

Some of the ancient ruins at Caesara. And of course the gorgeous water. I'd live there.

Baha'i' Gardens: Just look at the photos below. It was beyond gorgeous.

How does this place even exist??

Family selfie at the gardens.

Bethlehem: We didn't actually go to Bethlehem, but we climbed a hill where we could look down on it and read the Christmas story while sitting up there. It was so surreal to be able to SEE the birthplace of Christ! I loved it.

Us on a hill overlooking Bethlehem.

David & Goliath: Based on scriptural accounts and several landmarks, they have a pretty good idea of where the story of David and Goliath happened. We went to roughly the right spot and got to sling rocks into a field, which was hilarious. At first, I couldn't see how our little slings would be able to provide enough power to take out a giant man, but then my brother (nicknamed "Rambo" by some of the locals) got the hang of it and could get the rocks to go quite fast and far. So yes I can now see how David was able to knock out Goliath haha. (Sadly, no photos on our computer of us practicing with our slings.)

Western Wall: This is a wall of the ancient temple that the Jews own. They hold Bar Mitzvahs there so we got to go and see several take place. It was amazing! Everyone there was so happy and I really liked that we got to see such a momentous occasion for these families take place. Plus there was an inflatable Rabbi that would walk around and that was great.

The Western Wall (men's and women's side) on a non-Bar Mitzvah day.

Bar Mitzvah day!

Inflatable rabbi. 

Old City: SO. MANY. CATS. And tons of cool stores and delicious food! Everyone there was so nice and I loved getting to shop around and see different vendors.

Us near the Arab quarters of the market. 

An olive wood sculpture we would have bought if we could have. We did end up buying some other less expensive (but still gorgeous) olive wood sculptures. 

Gethsemane: This was probably the second most spiritual place we went to. It was very peaceful and the olive trees were gorgeous. It was pretty touching to think about Christ being there the night before being crucified.

Gethsemane with olive trees (over 2000 years old!).

Gethsemane overlooking where the temple used to be, now the Dome of the Rock.

Best parents in the world at Gethsemane looking out at Jerusalem.

Garden Tomb: Obviously, this was my favorite place of the whole trip. I had seen so many photos of it growing up so as soon as we turned the corner and I saw it, I burst into tears. It was very surreal to actually be there and to go inside the tomb. The garden itself is incredibly well-maintained and gorgeous. It was just so peaceful and spiritual. I could have stayed there all day. The whole trip was amazing but even if it had been horrible, just being at the Garden Tomb would have made up for it. I loved being there with my family and baby and I will never forget our time there. Definitely my favorite landmark in the whole world.

The whole wonderful fam at the Garden Tomb. All the tourists would patiently wait to have family photos taken in front of the tomb without other people around. Everyone was very polite and accommodating.

The Garden Tomb.

Inside the tomb where Christ was (possibly) buried. 

The sign on the door of the tomb.

There were a few other places we went to that they can definitively say Christ has been to or walked on and that was really special. The whole trip strengthened my testimony of the Savior and made me love and appreciate Him even more. If you ever get the chance to go to Israel, do it. It is absolutely worth it. I learned SO much.

A mini model city of Jerusalem! Helped me understand everything and its location MUCH better. 

Mini model of what the temple used to look like (where the Dome of the Rock now is).

On the steps leading up to the temple. With our sun umbrellas. These are definitely the steps Christ walked on!

Same steps leading to the temple. 

At St. Peter in Gallicantu, another place Christ definitely was. 

A view of the city and Dome of the Rock.

Dome of the Rock up close! I have studied this mosque SO much in my various Art History classes so I loved getting to see it in real life.

After our tour was over, we went to Tel Aviv for a day at the beach and that was looooovely. The perfect way to end the week. The sand was so soft and the beach itself was quite clean with nice boardwalks you could walk on. The water was the perfect temperature and crystal clear. We all got in and I noticed there were lots of small ish fish (6-8 inches long) swimming around us. Fish kind of freak me out so I was a little uncomfortable that they were getting so close to my legs. I decided to stand next to Chris thinking that if there were two of us close together, they wouldn't come up by us. WRONG. A FISH CAME UP TO MY ANKLE AND BIT ME. I screamed. And nearly started crying. It didn't hurt horribly, but it freaked. me. out. And drew a small amount of blood. After that I decided to go back to my shaded beach chair and eat. But then we could see other tourists get nibbled on and subsequently freak out, which was rather entertaining. My mom ended up getting bit four times! If it hadn't been for the fish, it would have been the perfect beach haha but I'll still go back.

Us at the beach post-fish attack.

We also had the BEST Mexican food of our lives at a restaurant in Tel Aviv! Everything was so fresh and yummy. I'm still dreaming about their roasted artichoke tacos.

The best Mexican food. 

Thankfully our return flights home were MUCH less eventful. We made it back safely AND on time AND with our luggage! Such a win. Adjusting to the time change on our way home was pretty easy and I was able to go to work the next day without falling asleep at my computer.

The trip was amazing and I loved it, but I am definitely ready to be home for a while and get ready for baby. Since I am now 31 weeks, I will not be flying again until after the baby is born, but I'm ok with that haha. Then it will be time for new travel adventures with a newborn! Can't wait. Already on the travel agenda for next year is Florida, possibly Utah, NYC, San Francisco, and Phoenix. Definitely no international vacations for a while though. Wish us luck!

P.S. If you are thinking about going to Israel or have more questions about our trip, please don't hesitate to shoot me an email! I'd love to talk about it more and give recommendations. I would highly recommend it to anyone!

Ate: 6 cookies today. But they were little.
Wishing: Tomorrow wasn't Monday.
Excited: To pick up my laptop tomorrow! It is FINALLY fixed. And sharing with Chris has been rough haha.
Days Until Christmas/Baby: 63!!!!


  1. Looks awesome. It looks like you went to similar places as us when we were there! Miss you guys! Haha ps it says I'm logged in as Jacob? It's Megan.

    1. Hahaha hi Megan! And yes I think we had the same tour guide you guys did?? Daniel Rona? Anyway we loved it! Miss you guys too!

  2. You just made me want to go there way more than I even did before!! What an amazing place. Those fish would have freaked me out big time haha


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