Travel report: Israel
In February 2011, I went to Israel to spend two weeks there, visit friends, discover the country, meet new people and try to get a better understanding of a unique situation.
- Soundtrack of the report
- Travel Light
- The Do
As I’ve said in a previous article, I had a lot of expectations about this trip and I was especially eager to have a chance to see for myself what’s happening in this part of the world. This was definitely one of the most interesting trip I’ve ever made and I gathered a lot of content, so it took me a while to finish up this report.
This is our first "official" travel report on Hejorama and we haven't really defined a format for those, so it's just a collection of all the content I have gathered during my two weeks. It's not in a particular order and mixes various medias. It starts below with a video of our visit of Jerusalem. Then I've wrote some thoughts about various things I found interesting in Israel. These are highly subjective and only reflect my opinion, please don't get offended if you don't share my views. I finished the report with a simple list of random facts.
PS: As you can see there's not much pictures because I'm not good with cameras and decided a while ago to leave that to the good photographers. I usually take some with my phone and that's about it.
I don’t really want to get into the details about the current situation with Palestine. I’ve only spent 2 weeks in Israel and it’s an incredibly complex situation. I talked about it mostly with Israelis and American expats/tourists and wished I had the chance to talk more with people in Ramallah. The only thing I can say is that not being Jewish and with my personal history of growing up in Paris with a lot of friends from Tunisia, Morocco or Egypt, I found it difficult to no side with the Palestinians at the end of my trip. For more about this, I recommend that you watch our video in which I talk about Palestine with Adam.
I found Tel Aviv to be very chill, which is not necessarily a bad thing but contrasted with the cliché of “craziness” that sticks to the city’s nightlife. I liked that everything is open late, there’s plenty of bars and clubs and it’s not hard to get a quick bite at 6am before going to sleep. You don’t see fights in the streets and drunk people passed out on the sidewalk—happens to everyone, we don’t judge. But there’s not much going on at all actually. Just people drinking (slowly) there drinks and talking for hours. I was expecting more action. It kind of reminded me of Paris which is not a good thing. Drinks are expensive, most the clubs have selection and cover charges. Three things I don’t like... But I’m sure there’s a lot more I didn’t see and I wished I had the time to meet more people that would have take me to cool places.
In Jerusalem we went to places recommended by some friends of Adir, a couchsurfer I met in Paris and that became a good friend. It turned out to be the craziest night of the trip. We met an awesome dude that we nicknamed Fat Jesus who introduced us to some home-made grappa called Chacha (strong shit) and delicious local tapas. If you are in Jerusalem make sure you stop by Stardust, a rad place.
We all know that young Israelis have to serve in the army for a minimum of 3 years (2 for the girls). I was really curious to understand what they were doing during those 3 years. And the answer was quite surprising. Of course, a lot of the young people serve as regular fighters but it’s not all of them. You have a chance during your time to actually learn things, study and get into special programs to become a mechanical engineer, software developer or even get a grant to go study in the US for instance. Definitely more interesting than be stationed to a border checkpoint for 3 years.
I’m not religious and I usually avoid going in churches because I get uncomfortable in cult places. So the visit of the Old City in Jerusalem was a bit weird for me. The devotion in places like the the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Wailing Wall just scared me. Didn’t enjoy that. And the rest of the Old City is just way too touristy, full of people selling and buying souvenirs.
But the rest of Jerusalem was pretty cool and I recognize that I underestimated this city because of it’s religious attractions. I didn’t even know that it was more populated than Tel Aviv and was the actual capital city of Israel. People had warned me on Twitter to spend more time there but my planning was tight. I realized my mistake when we had an amazing night in places like Stardust, Uganda and Sideways. I failed to my own rule: “always trust the locals”.
Some random facts
- - On Shabbat at the Hilton, one elevator would stop at every floor so that you don’t need to press a button if you are religious
- - Army uniforms are sexy
- - My two favorite restaurants in Tel Aviv were Edna's and Montefiore.
- - All the Israelis I’ve met spoke perfect English
- - Tel Aviv and Jerusalem feels very safe. And actually you don’t see that much army and police in the streets.
- - Israeli guys make amazing impressions of Borat
- - It’s very common to dance on the bars in clubs
- - If you want a real cocktail bar in Tel Aviv, head to 223.
- - They make Manchester United kippas
- - Tel Aviv is not dead at all during Shabbat. Paris might be more quiet on a sunday actually...
- - In my plane from Zurich to Tel Aviv, everyone knew each other. "How many people do you know in this plane", even asked the dude next to me. He laughed when I said "none" and said he knew 30.
- - Bartenders usually give you free chasers if you stay for a couple of rounds in the same bar. The max we got was 6 rounds of free chasers—see the result in the second video.
- - 1€ is 5 shekels and won't buy you much—just like in Paris.
I hope you enjoyed this report and would love to hear your thoughts if you ever been in Israel.