I arrived Thursday, May 15th to the smiling face and open arms of my daughter, Anna, who had just finished her ten-day Birthright tour of Israel. We were delighted to arrive at the Savoy Hotel– a charming, little boutique hotel in a Tel Aviv neighborhood just down the block from miles of beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. I was immediately struck by the site of mezzuzahs on not only the entrance to the hotel, but on every hotel room door !!
After settling in, we were excited to find a little outdoor rooftop terrace overlooking the sea and the city behind us. As the sun started to set we took a leisurely stroll along the promenade that goes along the coastline. We then enjoyed a relaxing dinner at one of the seaside eateries, London.
Both of us were exhausted after my 13-hour flight and Anna’s 10 day excursion, so we decided to get to bed early. We woke up on Friday to the sun beaming through our window and ready to join the hundreds of Israelis and tourists all converging on the outdoor Shuk-HaCarmel market. We pushed our way through the vibrant and colorful market that was lined by fruit, vegetable and bread vendors and everything else you could ever need or imagine. We of course had to stop at the Halavah vendor to purchase our first Israeli dessert . We bought a chunk of pistachio Halavah- it was delicious. I thought of Berry who would have most certainly bought the entire cart of Halavah. We then waited at a hot hole in the wall place to get my first Falafel of the trip. We pushed our way through the dozen Birthright participants all trying to order in their broken Hebrew- luckily I had Anna to help.
We stood on the street corner enjoying our felafel with “chips” – french fries – that they put in the pita with the felafels, veggies, etc.
We enjoyed some beach time in the afternoon before having a wonderful reunion with my friend Tzipi – who was a young social work student when I first met her in Israel in 1974. It was delightful to reconnect with Tzipi after all this time. Tzipi has accomplished much in her life both personally and professionally and is the proud mother of three daughters and two grandchildren, all living in Israel.
Anna, Tzipi and I enjoyed another wonderful dinner on the shore of the Mediterranean sea and kept the evening going with tea and a delicious dessert, listening to the waves and watching all the people spending a Shabbat evening strolling along the sea.
Shabbat morning found Anna and I riding bikes along the sea, where we came upon a dog beach filled with all shapes and sizes of dogs happily romping on the sand and swimming in the sea. We also passed a large group of people doing Israeli zumba dancing outdoors overlooking the beaches. We then joined the throngs of people quickly filling up every inch of space on the beaches.
Saturday evening we ventured out to make the 30 minute walk along the beach to old Jaffa, the first port city in Israel. Unfortunately it was dark out and we had no idea where we were going so after winding up and down through some deserted passaageways, we found a quaint little restaurant to have dinner in and then returned to the hotel to pack for our next day’s excursion to Eilat.
We had a quick flight to Eilat, flying mostly over mountainous, desert landscapes. Eilat is the southern most city in Israel, bordered on the East by Jordan, which we could easily see from our hotel, and yesterday, when it was quite clear out, we could see the mountains of Egypt, and I think Saudi Arabia in the far distance.
We are staying in the beautiful Dan Eilat Hotel, with it’s giant, gently blowing palm trees, beautiful pools and a beach on the Red Sea.
Our room has a large porch overlooking the sea, where I am now sitting to write this blog. I am apologizing up front if the blogs rarely appear. We are finding we are so tired in the evenings that it is difficult to write. Yesterday, we struck up a conversation with a man and his daughter at the pool because we noticed he was wearing a Detroit t-shirt. He is Israeli but went to college at Berkley and has spent a lot of time in the States. We had a great talk about Israeli and U.S. politics, people, etc.
Like Tel Aviv, there are a lot of outdoor restaurants overlooking the sea – my favorite way to dine. Today Anna and I did our one really touristy thing and went to the Eilat aquarium and rode the boat with windows under the sea so we could see the coral and tropical fish that Eilat is known for. This was probably the one disappointing outing of the trip so far. I have seen much nicer aquariums elsewhere and we probably would have gotten a better view of the coral reefs if I wasn’t such a chicken and had been willing to go snorkeling.
Not that I’m complaining, but the heat here is really wearing us out, so I think we may eat at an indoor restaurant tonight, then pack and get ready for the next leg of our journey tomorrow – Jerusalem !!!!!