I just got back on Friday from 5 days in Israel - FABULOUSLY FUN time!
-I arrived on Saturday 3/22 at around 3:30 and took a cab (that's a whole nother post! hated dealing with the cab drivers) to my hotel - the David Intercontinental in TLV. I thought it was a great location right across from the beach.
It was Shabbat and only 1 elevator was working, so there was madhouse activity in the lobby, fortunately, my room was on 5, so I walked most of the time.
Saturday night, I went to the beach and walked around Rothschild blvd and had a great dinner at an Italian restaurant - Rustico (EXCELLENT)
-Sunday - I woke up and just walked - all around Carmel market, Rothschild blvd again to look at the Bauhaus architecture. I had a walking tour via Lonely Planet that I took advantage of. It was all nice, but what struck me is how many structures all over the country are just crumbling. Prime real estate on the beach is in terrible disrepair - kinda sad. I ended up spending the day at the beach and that suited me just fine.
Dinner that night was at Manta Ray on the beach across from the hotel. it was great. the food was totally on my level - whole fish, breads & veggies.
-Monday morning, I walked over to Yafo and toured that old little city and flea market. It didn't do much for me.
-I took a sherut to Jerusalem. That was totally not my scene. My father was with me at this point and he suggested we take a sherut (he lives in Tiberias). Granted it was inexpensive, but it wouldn't take us to the hotel and it just wasn't efficient.
Jerusalem/Monday (long story about the hotel). I stayed at the David Citadel, Dad at Beit Shmuel, will post reviews on both.
-Dad was tired from travel and morning walking, so I walked thru the Old City solo. I wouldn't recommend this for a woman. Granted, I wore a normal denim skirt with a long sleeve shirt - modest by my city's standards, but definitely envelope-pushing there. I was accosted at every turn. It was terrible. Tour guides, market stall holders, orthodox Jews driving on the road - men harassed me left and right. It was awful. Interestingly, when I walked with my father, it was as if I was validated. That bugged me. I have traveled the world alone and was never treated like that.
Monday night we just went to dinner at a restaurant in the Mamilla mall shopping avenue. It was a decent casual place.
-Tuesday Dad and I went to the wailing wall. My brother was Bar Mitzvahed there so that was cool. After that trip, Dad was tired and I decided to continue in the Old City. I wanted to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Miraculously, I wound up walking with a delightful 70-year old Armenian man who knew more about the are than any guidebook, show or podcast could offer. We walked for quite some time.
What really struck me about the Church was that it almost had a Disney-esque quality. People were talking pictures and videotaping everything. I get it's a once in a lifetime experience to be there, but the tourist aspect of the place really undermined it's sacred nature.
I just came back to the hotel and hung out by the pool the rest of the day (the pool there is amazing!)
-Tues night Dad at Mamilla mall, I ate a FABULOUS little vegetarian restaurant on Jaffa Street that is honestly the best I have ever been to! Ate there 3 times! Had a glass of wine at restaurant 1868 and called it a night.
-Wednesday Dad and I went to Yad Vashem. it was a magnificent experience. First of all - it's a visually stunning structure and situated on a gorgeous hill that offers a view of Jerusalem like no other. The exhibit itself is so moving and so well done. I have been to a ton of HOlocaust museums and this was the best, without question. It's so worth it. My father has been there 3-4 times and he said he discovers something new every time.
Dad went back to hotel and I went shopping. I joined him for dinner later, while I went back to the vegetarian restaurant later that night. I needed to eat well.
-Thursday - this was the coolest thing I did!!!! I did the Jerusalem half marathon. It was the absolute experience of a lifetime! It was the toughest run I have ever done, but I met so many fun people! I took my camera with me and took pictures of everything. The course wound through west Jerusalem and it was beautiful, challenging and AWESOME!!!!
I was really beat after the race b/c I have been on the shelf due to an injury, so Dad and I just went back to the vegetarian place (AGAIN) and had some lunch, coffee at Cafe Hillel and relaxed.
My flight left that night, so I went to the airport and spent the next day in New York decompressing.
It looks as if I didn't take full advantage of being there, but I was really happy with what I did. I could have done more, but with it was tough with a 76 year old Dad at times. I was happy relaxing by the pool and ocean and just walking around the neighborhoods at a leisurely place.
It's funny, an Israel "virgin" (like I was) will have some media-driven apprehensions going there (tough for me to say since I am a member of the media). But I never felt safer. Security checked my bags before entering every hotel, store, pharmacy and restaurant. I didn't mind at all - completely appreciated it and never felt safer.
This post is already too long, I left a lot out, please feel free to ask me anything.