My first trip to Tel Aviv was in 2012, February. I flew from Bangalore to Mumbai, then Turkish Airlines to Tel Aviv via Istanbul. A long layover in Istanbul, a short interview there by the security personnel was all it took for me to land up in Israel. A gorgeous city, I stayed at Habarzel Street, Leonardo Hotel, a boutique property that charges for internet. I still find that a little strange, given everywhere you go in Tel Aviv, internet is available and free.
Tel Aviv has some fantastic museums, but the weather during that time was less than perfect. Rains almost everyday dampened most plans in the evening. The day I did head to the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art, it rained cats and dogs. Well I was determined, wasn’t I! The best pieces there were the recreation of war sights and destruction, that were done by some artistes using metals. I had never seen anything like that.
The one weekend that I had, I decided to go to Jerusalem. I was definitely apprehensive about swimming in the Dead Sea, but going to Jerusalem, a place I had read so much about, and even sang hymns growing up, definitely intrigued me. So a friend of mine and I booked ourselves to this bus to Jerusalem and back. The weather said dress warm, but I sure as hell wasn’t expecting snow! And there it came! That was actually the first time I saw snow. And hell, I was outside and not nearly as warm enough. But of course we kept going. Our driver cheerfully informed us that snow in Jerusalem was rare. And lucky.
We stopped at one of the oldest churches of the Byzantine empire, which in turn was built on the site of the ruins of the Church of Nativity, one of the oldest churches known to man. And this was in Bethlehem, located technically in Palestinian borders. We had a guide who took us on foot across the gates to Palestine. We were told to carry our IDs and they did check, and did basic security inspection as well. And then we were in Bethlehem.
After this, we went to the city of Jerusalem, to walk along the paths of Christ, to see how religions of the world come together in this one place. The town itself was an intriguing place, the stone covered paths, small stalls along the way, and pieces of history just about at every nook and corner.
Aside from the hustle bustle of it all, just standing in the courtyard overlooking the wall is a feeling of unmistakeable peace and calm.
The drive back to the city was weary, and quiet. I felt accomplished.