My First Impressions Of Israel

For me travelling is the key to my personal happiness. I find it therapeutic, relaxing, invigorating, exciting and a massive eye opener. There is nothing more soul satisfying than exploring a new city or country and learning about their culture. The world really is my oyster and as I travel I find I break a lot of silly misconceptions and stereotypes I had in my mind. I think the media plays a big part is this or maybe just the fear of the unknown but it’s a great feeling to create your own impressions about a country and debunk some ridiculous notions that you had in your mind.
Israel is a small but fascinating country seeped in history and conflict. What I had read about and heard made me doubtful and full of questions but I spent about a week there and ended up falling in love. I can honestly say it is exciting, there is so much to learn, so much history that it actually gets over whelming at times but also so much life, love and laughter. For such a tiny country there is plenty to see, experience and learn and this trip just gave me a sliver of what it has to offer. While I will write more posts about where I went and the things I saw and ate, this first one is about some of the misconceptions I managed to clear up and about a few things I noticed that pleasantly surprised me.

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It’s Extremely Safe – ย This was one of the biggest concerns for my family. We are constantly use to things we see in the media and have formed pre conceived notions about what Israel is all about in their minds it must be unsafe. The truth is that I actually felt more safe in every single part of Israel even more than I have on say the streets of Paris. In fact I barely saw any local police around except in Jerusalem and only at the Western Wall which was also about four police cars which is pretty routine, you see the same amount outside any big religious place of worship. In Tel Aviv you see a lot of army cadets walking about but honestly, it felt more like a big college campus with everyone in uniform. It isn’t intimidating at all, in fact I find it interesting as it isn’t something I’ve ever seen before anywhere else.

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It’s Expensive But Worth It – Let’s be honest. Israel is a lot like Europe and you’ll experience that when you start paying for things. 1 Shekel is roughly 18 Rupees which isn’t much but the pricing is different. For the average Indian I’d say it’s probably in the same range as a trip to Europe. The point I’m trying to make is that we find Europe expensive and yet we plan multiple trips which means expensive isn’t the same as unaffordable. Israel is gorgeous and while it will cost you roughly the same amount budget wise, it will give you an entirely different experience.

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The most stunning Sunsets – Many photographers are enthusiastic about capturing the sunrise and sunset when they travel and I always thought of it as silly. Till of course you witness a spectacular one and then you can’t seem to click enough photos. I’m not easily impressed but I will say this, I feel in love with the sunsets in Israel. No matter where I went, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, The Dead Sea, Haifa or just driving in between towns come evening I’d look up at the sky and it would take my breath away. Honestly, every single time. I don’t know what it is but the sky would burst into several different shades of red, orange, yellow, pink purple and it would be magic. Believe me the pictures really don’t do justice.

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Israelis Love Sports – The more I travel the more I realise how fit people are across the world. I always admire their determination when I see them relentlessly jogging early inthe morning. In Israel however, every single person is active. Almost everyone plays a sport or takes part in marathons, every couple of weeks there are races or competitions and various sporting events to encourage people to get out and push themselves. They love the outdoors and you can tell because no matter which part of the country you visit, you’ll always see folks out for a run or cycling or playing an outdoor sport.

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Israelis Have A Great Sense Of Humor – The more locals you meet, you realise that they’re extremely warm people but what I love most is their sense of humor. They’re always cracking jokes and are generally very fun to be around. From local celebrity chefs, shop keepers, street vendors, waiters and even my own tour guide. Everyone has a personality and love to joke around.

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For A Desert It’s Really Green – This might be one of the first things I noticed as I left the airport in Tel Aviv to drive about an hour away to Haifa. Everywhere I look I see patches of green and plenty of trees along the road. I was told that for years now the JNF ( Jewish National Fund ) has been responsible for planting trees so as to give the country a better environment and that future generations can benefit from these fruit bearing trees and that the country will no longer just be a harsh desert. The JNF was stated in 1901 and since then they’ve planted nearly 240 million trees in Israel and I for one and extremely grateful because it gives the country such a pretty landscape which is a far cry from the harsh browns of the desert.

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The Kibbutz – I actually hadn’t heard of the Kibbutz before but found it to be extremely interesting. The Kibbutz is a community that live together in a particular area so almost like a mini village and are mostly dedicated to agriculture or at least that’s how it started way back in 1901. The general philosophy is that everyone works together for the betterment on the community. There isn’t an individualist purpose but in fact work together so everyone grows equally. I didn’t actually go inside or meet anyone but the idea was novel atleast for me.

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It’s A Vegetarin/Vegan Emperor – Hard to believe but if you’re a vegetarian believe me in this country you will eat like a King. While Israelis do eat meat, chicken and fish mostly along with some red meat they don’t eat pork and are obsessed with salads. I have seen various types of salads for breakfast lunch and dinner. Most of these are just fruit and vegetable based but some have meat tossed in as well. They also adore their cheese and have a huge variety of different types of cheese and bread. An Israeli breakfast will consist of a lot of salad, fruit, cheese and bread and believe me you won’t miss the meat at all!

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Tel Aviv Is Party Central – Ok, let’s be honest. Many countries have a great party vibe. Honestly almost everywhere I’ve been in Europe have fab bars and clubs and I’ve ended up with great memories but I have to admit, there ain’t no party like the ones in Tel Aviv. It’s almost hard to explain because of course everywhere has great places and good music and plenty of alcohol but the kind of bars and cafes you see in Tel Aviv are a tad bit different. They ooze character and for lack of a better word – they’re extremely cool. Tel Aviv at night gets funky with almost every place going packed. If you’re making a trip, make sure to factor in some fun time in the capital.

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The Country Doesn’t Come To A Standstill On Sabbath – I think this was by far the biggest myth that was broken. I read online and had a few people warn me that during Sabbath the entire country comes to a standstill and no public transport works and you can’t really go anywhere. In Judaism Sabbath is the 7th day in the Hebrew calendar which is a Saturday in the English calendar. It is meant to be a day of rest and worship and many Jews don’t get out on that day. They avoid using electronic things and there are other customs they follow but to generalize and say everything comes to a grinding halt is incorrect. There might not be as much movement but restaurants and shops are open you just need to check before hand depending on where you are.

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