I've been watching StreetView images from Tel Aviv for months now, with envy. People in March and October walking around in short sleeves and sandals, light jackets at worst. All the while we were having -15C here in Warsaw. But it's time now. Spring's in Poland, and a few days from now we'll be in year-round-sunny Israel.
It'll be a mixed, stay-put-and-venture-out kind of trip. We decided to sleep for the full ten days in Tel Aviv, right in the center and close to the beach, and spend approximately half of these riding out in a rented car to other cities. Tel Aviv should be an excellent base, with beautiful, sandy beaches, a massive culinary offering and lively nightlife. It was tough to choose just a subset of interesting listings from Spotted by Locals.
We've no fixed plans for any of the days. I'm guessing we'll want to travel out of the city every other day, but we'll decide on the spot—accounting for limitations of the sabbath and probably opening times of some of the sights and museums we might want to visit.
Tel Aviv itself doesn't seem to have many sights—it'll “just” be a lovely place to blend in with the local culture—but the other spots we have on our list offer an abundance of these:
- Jerusalem, of course, covered by the first and longest chapter of the Israel Lonely Planet travel guide. Thousands of years of history in one place. Stones and olive trees that have “seen” events that legends talk about. We might need to go there twice just to cover the most interesting parts.
- Haifa with its Baha'i Gardens, beautiful port and adjacent districts.
- Caesarea for the old, Roman ruins and nearby Zikhron Ya'akov for the excellent wine.
- Sea of Galilee with its beautiful nature, and most likely the Dead Sea to have the obligatory photos of floating on top of the super-salty water.
- Nazareth and Bethlehem, perhaps, because they're so enshrined in the history of the region, even though we're not going there for religious reasons. More on that later.
Many people, upon hearing about us going to Israel—the Holy Land—assume we're doing so for religious reasons. We're not. What we're after is the ingenuity and energy of the people, that in the most unlikely of circumstances created this little, but massively successful country in a place surrounded by enemies. We're heavily inspired by books, such as Startup Nation and want to see all the good we heard about the country with our own eyes.
Would we be able, and willing, to live there? That's another questions we're pondering (although obviously, having no Jewish ancestry that we know of, this isn't really a possibility). While the country's economic and technological success is unquestioned, and security seems to be under control, we did notice from the photos that the streets look a lot like we'd expect from middle-eastern and Balkan areas. Not as clean and neat as we're used to here in central Europe. Would we accept that? We'll see.
I was surprised to see that there are no Toastmasters clubs in Tel Aviv. There's a total of three in all of Israel, while there are many more in adjacent Jordan. How come? I was expecting to find plenty of them, given the country's record of development, and I'm curious to find out why it's not so.
Finally, we're going there just shortly after the controversial Polish Holocaust bill was signed, causing a conflict between our both states, with even the United States intervening. We heard stories of Poles in Israel being verbally attacked afterwards and we sure as hell would like to avoid getting into any such trouble. We don't intend to hide our origin (nor do we intend to parade it in any way), we just want to be good guests and be received as such.