1. Jerusalem and Bethlehem are DFAT Zone Level 3
If you jump on Australia’s Smart Traveller website, you’ll see that the West Bank is a ‘reconsider your need to travel’ zone. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, since people have been fighting over Jerusalem for thousands of years, but it’s a shame that some of the world’s oldest and most religious sites are so difficult to visit.
2. The difference between Palestine and Israel
Only thirty minutes from Jerusalem, you enter Bethlehem and feel like you’ve flown into a different country. There is heavy military control here which includes two men with armed rifles getting on to search the bus and checking travel documents as you cross between the borders.
In Bethlehem, the taxi drivers are desperate for you to use their taxi. Many shops have been closed. The town looks run down. I don’t have a full grasp of the Israel-Palestine political and security issues but socio-economic disadvantage in Bethlehem is visible.
3. Plastic Bags in the Rain
When it’s raining, the Jewish men who wear top hats cover them with plastic bags. There are also people that wear plastic bags over their boots. I wanted to take a photo but it would be rude (instead I just talk about it online…).
Conscription in the national service is compulsory for all Jewish men and women over the age of 18 and apparently, it’s ok to take your guns home with you. There are armed teenagers walking around everywhere.
5. Souvenirs in Jerusalem
In the Old City of Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa, or 14 stages of the cross is the route that Jesus walked while carrying the cross on the way to his crucifixion. I expected it to have some sacred feeling, but the alleyways are littered with people trying to sell you things.
6. How beautiful the churches are!
Walking through the Catholic churches in Jerusalem and Bethlehem is an incredible experience. The architecture, artwork and ornaments are like no other. It’s also a very powerful moment to see a picture that you’ve seen printed in the past, before you in it’s original form.
7. Hot Chocolate
Best hot chocolate in the whole world.
8. An incredible beach in Tel Aviv!
When you think ‘Mediterranean Sea’ the mind normally jumps to places like Greece, Italy and France. It’s easy to forget the Mediterranean also borders some countries in the Middle East!
There’s no where in the world like Israel – it’s a really unique place. I never thought I’d go to Israel, but I’m so glad I did. If you want to know more about the country, you should check another of my posts The Best Things to do in Israel.