Our trip to Israel was as special as they come. Which is probably why it has taken me 2 months to finally get the energy to create this post!
Part of what made this trip so wonderful was the friends we had the pleasure of sharing it with. We traveled with friends we have made while living in Germany, the Cecis — and stayed with friends that live in Haifa, Israel, The Livermores. This made our itinerary unique as we were able to balance the roles of traveling like tourists and like locals!
We experienced and learned so much in these 7 days — that it feels impossible to attempt boxing it up into words and pictures on a screen. But for the sake of better remembering the sweet memories, I will do my best…
After landing at the Tel Aviv Airport we immediately made our way to the Levinski Street Market. This is a local market where you will most likely NOT find any tourists — but WILL find food that you will still be dreaming about months later! (True story!) I cannot even begin to explain all of the wonderful things we saw and tasted on Levinski Street — fresh spices, dried fruits, nuts, loose leaf teas and so much more!
Our market favorites:
Halvah: a dessert made from sesame tahini — combined with many different flavors!
Kombucha: fresh, homemade probiotic juices from Cafe Levinski 41
For dinner — we landed at a Yemeni Restaurant called Saluf and Sons — which set the food bar EXTREMELY high. The veggie stew over couscous and the hummus with fresh pita left us speechless. (I loved the veggie stew so much I tried to recreate it at home — didn’t come close. Ha!)
After the market we drove through Downtown Tel Aviv to different kind of market: Sorona Market. This trendy, indoor market holds 91 vendors — they have almost any type of food you can think of, desserts, drinks, fresh groceries… you name it!
We ended the night across the street at the Whiskey Bar Museum. This was the perfect place to sip on a whiskey flight and let is sink in that we were actually IN ISRAEL!
We began Day 2 at Caesarea — an ancient port city located on the Mediterranean Sea, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Caesarea was originally built by King Herod in 25-13 BC. Today it is a national park full of historic ruins for tourist to explore. There are also short films, restaurants and stores along the way. It is easy to spend a couple of hours here!
For lunch we drove 25 minutes northeast to Tishbi Winery. Sitting out on their beautiful, closed in porch, we had some of the most delicious salads and pizzas to date! (If you’re not catching on by now… the flavors and quality of food in Israel are on a whole ‘nother level.)
After lunch, we treated ourselves to a “Wine and Chocolate Tasting” in their tasting room. The owner, Golan Tishbi, has done a wonderful job pairing 6 French chocolates with 6 of his quality red wines. Highly recommend!
We ended the day by admiring the sun setting over the Mediterranean!
On Day 3 we moved from Haifa to Jerusalem. We spent almost the entire day at the Israel Museum — which is ranked in the world’s leading art and archaeology museums!
The Israel Museum offers many ever-changing exhibitions — and a long list of (free!) guided tours. We were able to take advantage of 3 of their guided tours (my favorite being the Dead Sea Scrolls) — while enjoying a lunch break at the museum’s cafe in between.
Although this was a long day of information — it ended up being a wonderful way to prepare us to see Jerusalem! Not only do they have a huge model of the Old City that you can visually learn from, the information and artifacts we were introduced to gave us a rich foundation to enter into the following 2 days with…
After a full day at the museum, we were still able to make 2 more quick stops:
The Garden Tomb — located just outside the Old City walls. Although it is unlikely that this is actually where Jesus was buried and resurrected — it is still a special place to visualize what Jesus endured while on earth and to spend time in worship, prayer, or stillness. The Garden Tomb is free of charge and even provides guided tours in 30 different languages (by reservation).
Jerusalem Prayer Center — a 5 minute walk from The Garden Tomb. The prayer center is open Mon.-Sat. (10-6) for anyone who wants to come pray. The staff has created an “Interactive Prayer Room” that provides a handful of intentional prayer spaces and activities that can help guide you in prayer over Jerusalem, Israel, the world, missions, unreached people groups, or really anything that’s on your heart.
The Jerusalem Prayer Center is run by a special group of people — that are eager to share a cup of coffee or tea with you. Having the opportunity to pray in complete silence over the country of Israel while kneeling in the heart of it was such a gift.
After checking into our AirBnb located in the Jaffa District — we walked over to the Mahane Yehuda Market. This market is the perfect blend of old and new — and the BEST place to grab a meal (or two… or maybe three…!) Our favorite spot was the Juchnun Bar — we ate here TWO nights in a row! Their “Memulawach” (pictured below) is mouth watering gooooood! Don’t. Miss. This.
Day 4 started bight and early with a private “customized” tour of the Old City — the real reason for our trip. We loved our tour guide, Tony, from Twins Tours.
Our tour began on the Mount of Olives — went down the Via Dolorosa through the Old City — and ended in the Christian Quarter for a much needed coffee break 🙂
Without going into every detail of this amazing day — here are the main highlights and stops from our Old City tour:
- Mount of Olives (Luke 22)
- Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26)
- Old City (entered through Eastern Lion’s Gate)
- Muslim Quarter
- Basilica of St. Anne (John 5)
- Struthion Pool (John 19)
- Jewish Quarter
- Western Wall
- Burnt House
- Montefiore Bekotel (lunch break)
- Christian Quarter
- Church of Holy Sepulchre
- Tower of David
- Christ Church Cafe (coffee break)
After one of the most surreal days of our lives — walking the streets that eventually led Jesus to calvary — we said goodbye to the Old City (exiting through the Jaffa Gate) to get to a French Brasserie: Kadosh.
We enjoyed dinner here — but of course left room for another memulawach at the Mahane Yehuda Market! 🙂
On our 5th day we had a delicious breakfast at Haba (right by the market). Afterward we conveniently picked up lots of goodies from the market (hummus, fresh baked pita, olives, fresh fruit, veggies) to have for a picnic lunch later.
With our car packed, we left The Holy City to drive 2 hours south through the Judaean Desert to Masada. Masada is an ancient fortress built on top of a (not-so-small) rock overlooking the Dead Sea. It is one of Israel’s most popular attractions — and it doesn’t take you long to see why. Only King Herod could dream up and demand that an entire palace (including pools, cisterns, beautiful hand painted and tiled guest rooms, etc) be built on this dramatic location between 37-21 BC!
You have the choice of taking a cable car to the top or hiking up the “Snake Path”. This isn’t exactly an easy hike — but if have at least an hour you can do it at a slower pace. (It took us about 45 minutes).
We enjoyed our picnic lunch at Masada… overlooking the Dead Sea! And then, obviously had to check “float in the Dead Sea” off of our Bucket List!
The Dead Sea is considered the lowest point on earth (1,412 ft below sea level) and is the world’s saltiest body of water! (10x saltier than the ocean!)
Although I was bit nervous, I knew I had to do it! And I’m so glad I did!
Floating in the Dead Sea is such bizarre experience! It’s SO salty that as soon as you lift your feet from the ground you basically SIT in the water. We had so much fun floating, attempting to roll over, and trying not to get water in our mouths or eyes! 😉
Dead Sea Tips:
- DO NOT SHAVE BEFORE (at least a day — preferably two!)
- Bring a towel, a change of clothes, moisturizer (if you have dry or sensitive skin), and your camera!
- Rinse off REALLY well afterward (there are outdoor showers and changing huts near by)
- Rinse your bathing suit out really well too! (or wear an old one)
After 3 days away from our “home-base” in Haifa — we took Day 6 a bit slower. It also just so happened to be an Israeli Holiday: Purim (from the book of Esther).
We were so excited to attend the Livermore’s church with them on this day — and join in the Purim celebration (dressed up at a rainbow)! I will never forget how beautiful it was to hear the congregation worshipping in Hebrew.
We grabbed falafel for lunch and spent the rest of the day at the beach in Haifa.
For dinner, we were treated by a friend of the Livermore’s to homemade Bedouin food. She came over and taught us how to prepare and cook a traditional Bedouin dish called Maqluba and with a toasted pita salad! The food was delicious and the entire evening was so special to us!
Our last full day in Israel started at Magdala — the birth place of Mary Magdala. And if you ask William, this was the most memorable part of the trip.
It hasn’t even been 10 years since archaeologists unearthed a 1st century synagogue, baths, and a fish and bread market right in Magdala by the Sea of Galilee. It was so neat to take a tour (need a reservation) of this newly discovered Holy site where Jesus most likely preached (and bought fish and bread)!
This is also the site where it’s thought that Jesus healed the woman who bled for 12 years and brought a dead girl back to life (Mark 5).
Leaving Magdala, we worked our way north along the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. Although Capernaum was somewhat touristy — William and I enjoyed spending some time in thought and prayer in the area that Jesus would have spent a lot of time during his ministry here on earth. Eating a picnic lunch a stone’s throw away from where Jesus preached the best sermon ever preached (Matthew 5) while overlooking the body of water He walked on (Matthew 14) was a moment I will not soon forget.
We ended the day with the short hike up to Mount Arbel to get one last spectacular view over the Sea of Galilee…. and it did not disappoint.
Sadly, the next day we had to fly back out of the Tel Aviv Airport. BUT not before getting one last bowl of veggie stew at Saluf and Sons and another homemade kombucha at Cafe Levinski 41 in Tel Aviv! We were hooked 🙂
Cheers to an unforgettable week, with dear friends, in The Holy Land! Thank you, Lord.
Although I definitely cannot take credit for creating this itinerary — I hope it blesses you on your trip to Israel! Please let me know if you have any questions 🙂