Israel isn’t all high on most people’s lists for a visit, and understandably so, with the ongoing Palestine conflict. However, cruising into Tel Aviv just before midnight, I instantly felt this was a safe and friendly place. The young hipsters were out and about enjoying food and drinks in the pleasantly balmy evening air, crowded onto the many outdoor seating arrangements. I’ve never seen such a varied array of strange bicycles and modes of one-man transport that I dont even know what to call them all. We picked a place which had converted a bright red vintage car into a cool drinks bar. The humongous, but light and cripsy pizza we shared was one of the best I have had!
Walking along Tel Aviv beach, the next morning, one of the main things I notice, is there are no obvious ‘tourists’. This place could easily be mistaken for somewhere in Spain, minus the drunken Brits. The beach didn’t have any burnt lobster skin visitors, nor were there any salesmen harrassing you to buy stuff. No endless rows of sunloungers either. Just a super relaxed vibe, a calm, clear sea, perfect for swimming into a beautifully pink sunset, which appeared most evenings.
Night owls will love the sheer variety of cool, unique establishments offering everything from fresh young electronic duos, to crazy-wild rock bands, to acoustic hang drum and violin ensembles in the form of my new flavour of the month Rankin Abergel. On evening we ended up at what seemed to be a huge dance class of about 100 people in a large square playground, learning the moves to Brazilian, Salsa, Kizomba and other music I wasn’t sure I could categorize! When that finished, the B-boys came in for some breakdancing with hip-hop classics. A midnight stroll back to the beach took us past a falafel joint. Value for money isn’t the word! We filled our hungry bellies with the crunchy steaming hot chick-pea balls and unlimited sweet cool salads oto accompany.
After a few days chilling in Tel Aviv, it was time for some history, so we hired a car and drove to Jerusalem. Here the proof is evident. Muslims, Jews and Chrsitians living side by side in peaceful proximity. Unfortunately, the old city has been turned into one big market stall – great if you love shopping however! Again nightlife took the award here too. We bumped into a huge crowd of Hisidic Jewish men raving their hearts out in a big circle to loud dance music in the middle of the cobbled street. One of the locals told me this was a celebration of the new moon. Who would have thought it?! Further down the street, I come across a young artist spraying a grafitti image of the late Leonard Cohen onto the wall. It turns out this is the renowned artists Soloman Souza, who hails from my own home town of London! He has single handedly converted the shutters of the Mahane Yehuda Market into a gallery of historical and famous people ranging from Amy Winehouse to the Queen of Sheba!
If all this music, food, art and history isnt enought to lure you in, the natural wonder of the Dead Sea is one of my weirdest experiences to date… floating in the thick salty warm waters of an eerily empty beach (we were literally the only ones there!) was really my highlight of the trip. It felt a little like swimming in clear syrupy oil. My skin felt soft as a rose petal after finally finding a shower (there are NO amenities anywhere in sight).