“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
If you’ve been reading The Ohio Transplant for awhile, you noticed I was pretty silent. In fact, I wasn’t posting at all. For ten full days. Crazy, right? I hinted (not so subtly) on Instagram and Facebook, but didn’t really give you the full story of why I wasn’t posting or really where or why I was going where I did.
Last Wednesday I embarked on an adventure of a lifetime (seriously) to Israel for Birthright. Now, let me explain a little bit. I never considered to be Jewish – religiously or spiritually. Sure, a lot of my family is Jewish but growing up in a pretty open household I was never pushed to believe one ideology or one thing.
In my twenties, I was always curious about Israel and happenings in the Middle East. I found out that my curiosity could be satisfied via Birthright on a ten day trip to Israel. So, I not really knowing anything about Israel or being Jewish, I blindly went.
This brings me to the above quote. While I never experienced Israel before or knew very little, I wanted to embrace the food, the customs and people fully and 100% – part of the reason why I was off the grid.
I felt like I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the culture if I was trying to connect to WiFi all the time. Luckily, I was in amazing company with twenty-somethings located throughout the United States and in Israel.
I know that these writings could never fully express what I experienced, but I’d love to share some highlights:
Experiencing a Shabbat: Israel (for the most part) shuts down from Friday evening to Saturday to celebrate. While I was there, we relaxed after a crazy few days and spent time enjoying each other’s company.
Climbing to the top of Masada: We climbed Masada at the end of our trip and for me, it was one of the highlights. Masada overlooks the Dead Sea and is over 2,000 years old, so the story behind it is super rich and fascinating. While I won’t get into the history of Masada, we woke up around 4 a.m. to see the sunrise at the top. It wasn’t an easy hike, but probably one of the more fulfilling and beautiful hikes I’ve been on.
The food: From morning to night, Israel is full of amazing places to nosh. I ate my way through Israel and definitely didn’t hate any minute of it. From falaffel in Jerusalem to schwarma and shakshuka in Tel Aviv, the food always felt fresh and made with love.
Other things to highlight? The insanely warm temperatures that require only short sleeves and sandals, riding a camel, sleeping in a Bedouin tent in the desert, and meeting some amazing life long friends. Pretty rad, indeed.
Will be posting more photos (I’m sure!) as time goes on, but wanted to give you a first look at what I experienced now that I’m not as jet-lagged!