Israel & The Palestinian Territories

When

  • March 2012 for a week

Places

Israel

  • Jerusalem
    • Free walking tour to get your bearings and to check out London’s main sights including all four Old City quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian & Armenian, the Western (Wailing) Wall (we put our own notes in there too), the hidden rooftops of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and other incredible rooftop views: Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Mount of Olives, get the history of the Jaffa Gate, David’s Citadel, Suq – covered markets and more (click here for the website of the free walking tour I did);
    • Jerusalem Old City is incredible to walk around – the best place to get lost and walk around the cobbles streets into the different quarters;
    • Masada Palace ruins (1500m hike and 700 stairs) are really cool and worth checking out – great view over the Dead Sea from here too;
    • Ein Gedi Nature Reserve with a trek to David’s Waterfall doesn’t take too long and seems odd to be walking through a desert like valley and then various waterfalls to pop up;
    • The Dead Sea across the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is free to swim at and pretty surreal to float in – must do whilst in Israel, it really is incredibly salty so you will know if you have any cuts on your body;
    • Israel Museum is cool and has some interesting pieces of art. Also you can see the Dead Seas Scrolls and has a full model of the Old City of Jerusalem so you could see what it used to look like before the temple was destroyed.
David's Waterfall in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
David’s Waterfall in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Palestine

  • Jericho
    • ‘the Oldest City in the World’
    • We walked through some city ruins which really there wasn’t that much left of them;
    • We then saw a monastery in the distance half way up a mountain (Mount of Temptation) so decided to go for a walk and check it out – was very interesting and a great view of Palestine from the top.
The view from the Mount of Temptation in Jericho..
The view from the Mount of Temptation in Jericho..

Accommodation

  • New Swedish Hostel in the heart of Jerusalem Old City – best access straight from Jaffa Gate downwards David Street until you see a Swedish flag on the left side. Ask if you cannot find it – very basic but I loved being in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Incredibly cheap.
The procession down the streets of the Old City..
The procession down the streets of the Old City..

Language

  • Hebrew and Arabic but English is fairly common and you shouldn’t have any issues.
  • Hello: Salām (Arabic) Shalom (Hebrew)
  • Thank you: Shukran
  • Good bye: bāy bāy
  • Yes / No: na’am / lā

Visa

  • Israel tourist visa is not required for Australians for a stay up to 90 days.
  • We got a taxi to the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge border crossing where we went through security and then had to wait (and pay) for a JETT bus to take us through no-mans land (a solid 15 minute bus trip!) and to the Israeli border control.
  • The Israeli border is the part which took the longest as there were quite a number of lines to go through. First of all they check the passport and randomly pulled people aside, including me! They took me into a separate room and questioned me intensely and gave me a full body check over (by a female guard) and then I had to sit around for a while until I was allowed to go back to my friends (where one of them was also getting the high number of questions as well). The next was a line to show your passport for the stamp/visa. As there are certain countries who do not like the Israeli passport stamp in your passport (Saudi Arabia being one of them), at the counter I asked if I could get it stamped on a separate bit of paper (they supply this) which the staff did not like and questioned why and I just told her that Saudi Arabia does not like the stamp in the passport and it is sometimes a mandatory stop over place for Australians (which is true!). She stamped it on the piece of paper and I was finally through!!
  • It was much easier returning to Jordan via the same crossing. I caught a public bus from the main station and well got off on the wrong stop and ended up hitchhiking back to the border (that’s another story!). Other than that it was easy. You have to get a taxi to the actual security post so ideally if you can get a group of you to get a taxi from the Old City to the border then that would be ideal.

Money

  • Israeli New Shekel (3.42 ILS = $1 USD)

Food

  • Hummus and pita are your best friends here – I would buy it all fresh and add some avocado as well
  • Chipsalat – salad, hummus and French fries served in a pita – everywhere and delicious and you can even get falafel in it
  • Shawarma is very similar to the chipsalat but usually has some meat in it (the meat is usually cooked as a shashlik)
  • Börek/Burekas – these are one of my favourites and contain many different fillings from meat to cheese to vegetables wrapped in pastry
  • Typical breakfast – white cheese, cucumber and tomato – in a salad
  • Lots of yummy falafel and tabbouleh
  • Shakshuka – eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce
  • Israeli breads and pastries line the streets of the Old City and are great to eat while you wander the cobbled streets – yummy baklava too
  • Halva is everywhere and is a Turkish sweet, made from tehina and sugar
  • Lots of tea and coffee around the place as well
The yummy street food out side of the Damascus Gate..
The yummy street food out side of the Damascus Gate..

Tips and tricks

  • Eat the street food around Jerusalem – it is delicious and some of the best food I have eaten.
  • Be respectful and cover up (shoulders and below knees) – especially when visiting churches and mosques (which you will do a lot of in Jerusalem) – handy to carry a scarf with you at all times as well. Cover up especially if you visit Temple Mount (which I recommend) as it is one of the most religious places in the world – the same goes for the Wailing Wall.
  • I have never seen so many people just casually walking around with guns slung over their shoulder – but this was during the time of the anniversary of ‘Land Day’ where Israel claimed some of the Palestine land (or something like that) and therefore there were a few riots and a whole lot of soldiers everywhere!! I did see a few scuffles and arrests (protests out the front of the Damascus gates and then soldiers chasing civilians on horses) but I did not feel any danger. We sat down with a shawarma and watched the happenings.
  • Take some food for a picnic and head to a rooftop for sunset – amazing experience especially with the call for prayer going on all around you.

Israel blog posts

At the top of the Masada ruins overlooking the amazing Dead Sea..
At the top of the Masada ruins overlooking the amazing Dead Sea..

Leave a Reply