Going to Israel was never near the top of a very long list but when an internet offer of a weeks tour around the country at a price nearly half of others I had seen popped up in my inbox what could I do?
In the interests of “research” I usually know what is available and how much it costs just so I can plan our next trip with confidence. Also when it comes down to it the main criteria for the next holiday is that we haven’t been there before ( A trip over the border from Aqaba to spend Shekels in Eilat doesn’t really count). We were booked to go to Israel.
Before we left there were several well publicised terrorist attacks leading to advice not to use public transport and we were warned by our travel company that travelling into areas under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction could be difficult depending on the current situation. I began to wonder if this was a mistake. I knew that by law all new Israeli buildings must have a secure room, a Merkav Mugan, a space offering protection from chemical weapons and projectiles. That was slightly unnerving.
However it was paid for and I just smiled as people rolled their eyes and asked me what we we thinking of!
As we were driven around we saw the high walls and barbed wire along the roads. We also saw the heavily armed security officers especially in Jerusalem although Tel Aviv seemed more relaxed.
But everywhere we felt welcome. There were no attempts to rip us off as happens in so many places to tourists and people were genuinely helpful and pleased to see foreigners taking an interest in their country. We saw beautiful countryside, Roman ruins, fabulous markets, places we knew about from the bible and things we had never seen anywhere else. Have you ever seen a menora jelly sweet, a giant poppy that reacts as you walk past or a group of young Chinese girls baptised en mass? If not you’ll find them all in Israel.
All the place names in Israel are so familiar that you think you know about the country but I discovered that despite five years of Sunday school as a child my religious knowledge was sadly lacking.
Of course in a tour of this type the majority of the group were religious and had a much greater understanding of the meaning of some of the sights than us.
But I think we learnt a great deal about a really fascinating modern country.