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We were there: Israel

Author: 12.01.2017 | Israel, we were there
When unpacking suitcases upon arrival home from a trip you discover there not souvenirs, not memorable postcards, not a pair of trodden down sneakers that bear an imprint of a foreign land but something that has changed you by making you have a wider look at this world from a new angle. I am Alexandra Portyanko, production editor of theoutlook.com.ua, and this is my story of a trip to Israel.

Active way of life and interesting job have always kept me going even if not in real life but along pages of articles of our journalists who brig emotions and impressions from different nooks of the world. However, what I personally experienced in Israel I would call “a week-long temet nosce escape”.

Main air gate of the country opened in Tel Aviv – modern metropolis with skyscrapers and an ancient citadel at the same time.

As it befits a hospitable host, Tel Aviv spread for me a white tablecloth along winding streets, oh, sorry, that was White City. Ensemble of small traditional concrete buildings with flat roofs is called Bauhaus there. In 2003, UNESCO included them into the list of World Heritage objects as an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture. No matter where my curiosity led me, this architectural marvel kept saying “Shalom” to me.

Materials of the topic: TEL AVIV NEVER SLEEPS

Warm welcome was blended with chink of shekels by colorful, noisy and “tasty” Mediterranean market the Caramel. The word is that one can buy anything or nearly anything there. The only thing that voices of market touts were drowning in was crunching of eastern baklava.

Tel Aviv buzzes, laughs, drives, beeps – to put it short, it sounds. Melody of Tel Aviv that day was a rainy one; for me it is a synonym of light melancholy, a moment, when you feel like looking deep inside.

This is how I got to Jaffo – one of the most ancient cities not only of Israel but of the entire world. Nowadays it is considered to be a district of Tel Aviv. Ancient port with its fishing atmosphere and boats that remind old vessels along with smells coming from nearby restaurants were sending my head spinning. All kinds of nationalities used to live there, which resulted in cultures blending. Some legends have it that it was this spot, where Noah built his ark and King Solomon brought Lebanese cedar tree to erect the First Temple through Jaffo.

In their due time, Romans ruled the city. Later it was “admired” by Egyptians. Jaffo was a source of inspiration for such famous personalities as Cleopatra, Richard the Lionheart and even Napoleon! Today it is still a place of artistic people. Poets, writers and painters often go there seeking inspiration. And they don’t go home empty-handed – like Rene Morin. His orange tree in a jug is attached to neighboring houses with chains to create an illusion of floating in the air, the one that hurry-scurry tourists attempt to hastily decipher or imprison in frames of photos while comprehension of a deep sense of this work of art actually takes calmness and time – just as the whole Jaffo. In evenings my minds is still occupied by the Clock Tower, Kedumim Square, Rocks of Andromeda and this troubled rustle of the Mediterranean Sea…

On an outline map of Israel, my memories draw their track of search for calmness and peace. So, I realized, this is where one should look for harmony in that country:

The Dead Sea, cave Qumran

It doesn’t matter in what season you manage to get there and if you get a chance to take a dip. No one ever cancels dusk and dawn and it isn’t hard at all to organize seeing them.

Water was cuddling me with slight December coolness, but I still managed to float like a bobber with my hands and legs spread. Ravishing stores of local guides about unique combination of climate conditions, air, water and muds that cure numerous diseases and even regenerate nervous system were coming from the shore. Europeans value local climate so much, that many insurance companies even include a stay at the shore into their medical programs.

This place, where body gets its youth back while mind and soul revive, may soon disappear from the face of the planet and turn into a memory. Annually water levels in this unique basin decreases, according to various estimates of experts, by 30 to 100 centimeters. Everyone knows this obviousness; however, the Dead Sea keeps numerous secrets, too…

In 1.5 kilometers’ drive, one can discover one of them. Vadi Qumran Cave, treasurer of ancient manuscripts famous as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scientists who decrypted ancient writings are sure that a religious community of Essenes lived there, who created a Holy Writ of their own.

Having covered small distance to the north of the cave, I admired this place at a height, feeling might of historic heritage that was touching all major nerves inside of me. Khirbet Qurman was a military base of Roman posts and currently it is a treasure trove for archeological excavations and for “digging” into own soul – and anyone can stay one on one with it there.

Masada

Each country has own places of power and pain. Israel is rich for those. Masada left an imprint in my heart – a fortress that has become a symbol of spiritual endurance, courage and recalcitrance. Legends has it, that ancient Masada was built by King Herod the Great. In times of wars of Zealots rebels against Romans, who ruled the area, it became a bulwark for people who wouldn’t put up with official governance. Alas, warriors failed to come victorious so they preferred collective suicide not to be taken captives by Romans.

Materials of the topic:Masada Fortress: the last stronghold

One shy look in the direction of the fortress makes you look more carefully not to discover anything unusual: Masada looks just like any other mountain in Hebrew locality. One cannot refer to it as “beaked” or “pointing its peak to heavens”. Average height, typical landscape and ruins of once gorgeous fortress. But it is there, where you start feeling greatness and of the nation and pride for it.

Eilat, Dolphin cay

Sea of color in brightest shades of Instagram filter, large turtles and playful dolphins, shine of the sun and hugs of mountains. Only few up-market resorts of the world can afford such a splendid combination. It is already clear for an experienced traveler that it is time to book a plane ticket and a hotel on the shore. For others I’ll write a bit more in this article and savor all the piquancy in my next one.

First of all, fans of diving are advised to go there because Eilat is one of the most beautiful locations for this kind of sports, with amazing underwater coral preserve and an observatory.

At Dolphin Reef sweet accidents happen now and then – sometimes dolphins swim away to the sea through holes in the net but they always come back to where they feel comfortable. Every animal requires own nutrition regimen therefore these cetaceans “carry” around buckets with own names on them thus making feeding procedure simpler: each employee knows how much food each dolphin needs. It is sheer pleasure to watch them.

National Park Timna

Majestic red rocks that grew behind my back, and warm wind, enveiling me from head to toe, gave me a sure sign – so I went to Timna.

For someone who is not a fan of desert and rocks this spot became a true revelation. My Kyiv whirl of events and constantly rushing pace of life got shifted with silence, guarded by whimsical sculptures of sphinxes, birds, mushrooms and trees.

Modern architects recreated ancient aura by paving road with red stone, reconstructing several chariots depicting people and animals at hunting and at war. While walking around the park, I visited remains of Hathor Temple – goddess of love and a protectress of treasure seekers as a side job. (In Timna there are deposits of copper and other noble metals.) One of the statues among high walls reminds a head of a woman thus associations with Egyptian god.

Mitzpe Ramon, Mahtesh Ramon Crater

With a tongue in one’s head one can find a way to Rome, and an empty stomach will sure bring you to Mitzpe Ramon. There the tastiest falafel hisses in boiling oil. Yet be ready to share the delight with mountain goats – the latter ones enjoy rights of local citizens there; and along with the majority of inhabitants of the locality they are vegetarians. Isn’t that an advertising of eco-tourism?

Not far from the settlement there is Makhtesh Ramon Crater and right above it a viewing platform overlooks everything. Stepping on squeaky crossbars and looking into embracive abyss you spot a young boy some 14 years old in a kippah and with light payots who sits on the very verge with his legs hanging over the abyss and reads Torah. This is probably many men’s dream to spend childhood in such place.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the city it is hard to write about. Everything I felt there is in my silence and in my eyes because each goes there with own baggage of thoughts and prayers brought inside and written on paper with a gentle hand. Having left a note with a wish among stones and hoping for own dream to come true, I touched the holiest Jewish site – the Western Wall – the last remaining part of the ancient temple, one of most sorrowful and majestic monuments of the entire world.

It only takes to move your head up to the Temple Mount – and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque already greet you with iridescence of sun on the golden dome.

Road to the façade of the holiest Christian site – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – is paved with stone plates; it was built directly on Calvary where Jesus was crucified to ascend to heavens.

There is no other place in Israel, where contrasts display themselves brighter than in Jerusalem. Walls erected by crusaders, defensive earthworks from times of the Ottoman Empire, Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy places neighbor modern trade centers, Roman arcs and Byzantine lions. You can walk on your own for hours along narrow winding streets or make your way through crowds of tourists following a tour guide but whatever your trip to this city is like, you will never forget it.

In the beginning of the article I complained about rush of my life in the capital calling Israel an escape of a kind but concluding writing I realized that visiting so many places in merely a week is also some pace so this is probably what fits me. However, there I realized that it is not the road that matters but the way you walk it.

OUTLOOK expresses gratitude to representation of Ministry of Tourism of Israel in Ukraine for organization of this insightful trip and unforgettable emotions. 

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