When friends recommend and curiosity compels me to look up this much-talked about country
A friend had been on a business tour with the convention bureau of Israel and Jerusalem popped up many times during the course of this conversation. I was curious, not just because Jerusalem is the birthplace of Christianity but because the antiquity is still preserved, despite the news of turmoil that keeps filtering out. She assured me it was one of the safest countries to travel in and I must not pay attention to a few over hyped things. Israel has fascinated me since the time I reached the baptism site of Jesus in Jordan way back in 2009. I could have waded through the one foot long Jordan River and reached Israel and probably had a holy bath with the tourists there. So I had to know more about this country and here’s what I discovered and all this makes it a country I must visit in the near future.
Jerusalem: Confluence of religions
Among the oldest cities in the world, it was known as Urusalima (2400BC) which means City of Peace. The Old City which is a world heritage site since 1981 traces its roots to 4th millennium BC. It has four fascinating quarters–Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. This area is also on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The foundation of the city is traced to King David, going to Biblical times. He captured it from the Jebusites, made it the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel and then later his son King Solomon built the First Temple here.
What we can see in the Old City–Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock, the Garden Tomb and al-Aqsa Mosque.
But outside this wall, in modern Israel too, my friend told me to see the Israel Museum which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also of interest are the Bible Lands Museum and Rockefeller Museum which was built in 1938 during the British Mandate. The Holocaust Museum of Israel (Yad Vashem) is said to house the world’s largest library of Holocaust-related information, an estimated 100,000 books and articles.
And if you are a music buff, then the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, established in the 1940s, would appeal to you. And maybe a step into the Jerusalem Music Center in Yemin Moshe and the Targ Music Center in Ein Kerem will make you happy.
But what I do intend to do is hike along the Jerusalem Trail which goes to cultural sites and national parks in and around Jerusalem.
Tel Aviv: Young and vibrant
Tel Aviv is the financial centre and a technological hub. Here modernity stands out in the many buildings, some by the Bauhaus school and Le Corbusier, and it is also home to some foreign embassies. It’s also better known as the party capital. There is theater, cinema, opera and along with it beaches and pubs. The beaches are said to be the best in the world! And then there are the parks, most popular being Hayarkon Park, Charles Clore Park, Independence Park, Meir Park and Dubnow Park.
It’s in the south of Tel Aviv that there are some popular clubs such as Haoman 17 club, Block Club, Comfort 13 and Paradise Garage. Another place for party is the Allenby/Rothschild area which has clubs such as the Pasaz, Radio EPGB and the Penguin.
And the dessert to eat is Halva ice cream topped with date syrup and pistachios!
Dead Sea: Wonder of the World
As seen from Israeli shore; Photograph:David Shankbone
The lowest point on Earth, its surface and shores are 429 metres (1,407 ft) below sea level. Salty and full of minerals, it is the only water where you can float and not drown! And you have to keep your eyes and sensitive areas of the skin out of the water. It was here that Herod the Great came to rejuvenate. Even the Egyptians used asphalt for mummification. And now the salt and the minerals are found in many cosmetics and herbal sachets.
Five things that make Israel stand out
- A major part of the Holy Land is found in Israel.
- It is has been home to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druze and Bahá’í Faith.
- Absolut Vodka introduced a specially designed bottle dedicated to Tel Aviv in 2013.
- Israel has the 35th-largest economy in the world by nominal gross domestic product as of 2015,
- The country is ranked in the top 5 highest standard of living in the Middle East and the third highest in Asia and has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.