ROSH PINNA –
We took the drive up north from Ein Gedi along the eastern side of the West Bank to the artist town of Rosh Pinna in the Upper Galilee. Highway 9 which runs to Northern Israel thru the West Bank is Israeli controlled and safe to drive on. However, it still felt strange taking this drive knowing all the crap going on in the West Bank. While driving, I would glance over to the left and see big red signs, with a very clear warning, alerting Israeli’s that it is forbidden for them to enter the West Bank.
If someone had asked me where Rosh Pinna was prior to our trip, I would have just shrugged my shoulders and wondered what country they were even talking about. Somebody in Tel Aviv told me it was a good place to cool out in, so we used Rosh Pinna as a base for further exploration into the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights area.
The old part of Rosh Pina are full of trendy cafes, restaurants, zimmers (Israeli name for B & B’s) and art galleries. We stayed in a B & B with our room perched high in the mountains with sweet views of the Golan Heights, Mount Hermon and the Sea of Gallilee. From our balcony, you can see in the not too far distance, the bordering countries of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. I remember the last Lebanon war Israel was in, about 10 years ago, with the fine folks belonging to Hezbollah. Rockets were fired from their base in Southern Lebanon into this area. Being so close to where the fighting took place and the hostile bordering countries was kind of eerie. Rosh Pinna and the surrounding lush green area seemed so tranquil that you would never imagine any trouble here. However, I did notice a stronger presence of young Israeli soldiers in uniform on patrol in this northern area. Barbie and I were eating a shawarma in a fast food place and a soldier was eating his as well at the table right next to us with his machine gun wrapped around his neck and pointing right at Barbie’s back. Downing a Shawarma, with a machine gun pointed just few inches from Barbie’s back, actually didn’t appear to faze her. The Shawarma was so tasty, so everything was cool.
AKKO (aka Acre) –
From Rosh Pinna, we drove 45 minutes towards the sea and to the town of Akko on Shabbot. Shabbot in Israel is basically like Dark Day at the track. On Shabbot, just like dark day, you gotta dig deep and find a good activity to occupy your time or you will find yourself sitting on your ass with basically shit to do as mostly everything is closed. Akko made a great place to spend a Saturday, as the Arabic Old City here doesn’t close down on Shabbot.
In Akko, we passed on the mosques as I was dressed in shorts. Our real mission was to explore the Turkish Bazaar in the Old City and to chow down on some tasty local Hummus. It was a toss up between 2 Hummus joints that got all the hype: Hummus Said and Hummus Sawila. Once we saw the long line of Israeli’s outside at Hummus Sawila we pulled the trigger and joined the long queue for this very excellent hummus despite sweating our asses off in the hot sun. Waiting in line with Israeli’s was a real experience with many locals feeling it was their given right to cut the line. I just had to smile at witnessing the balls they have. I am beginning to question why more Israeli’s are not big time NBA basketball rebounders. Many process this unique ability of ‘boxing out’ as evidenced by their uncanny ability to battle for position in any crowd and on any line. I have learned to sharpen my elbows before entering any crowded space in Israel.
Besides the fantastic hummus, I will also go on record that it was in this market that I ate the best desert that I have ever eaten in the history of life. It was an Arabic/Palestinian desert called Kanafeh. This desert will probably never taste the same outside of the Middle East. (Check out video below of my slice) So, next time you are in Israel, put a slice of Kanafeh on your bucket list of must- eats. You can thank me later.
We pulled the trigger and headed to Nazareth as we were able to secure a private room in the highly touted Fauzi Azar Inn. It is far from fancy or hip but this 200 year old Inn/Hostel was so freaking cool and just gushing with character and charm. We spent two nights in the Old City of Nazareth. Upon arrival, I questioned whether it was a good decision to spend 2 nights here. Once you peel the layers off, the treasures of this place will be revealed.
What made it so interesting was the experience of living in an Arab/Palestinian city. We were were advised not to visit the Palestinian towns of Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus, Jericho in the West Bank because of security issues. Staying two nights in Nazareth was a fantastic alternative. Even though Nazareth is located in the heart of Northern Israel, it felt like we were in a completely different country. The city was safe, the Palestinian people were super kind and the Arabic food we ate was excellent. Most importantly, we learned about a different way of life. Our stay provided us with the opportunity to see the daily life from a Arab/Palestinian perspective. We were fortunate to come into contact with many locals and hear the other side of the Israeli/Palestinian differences. Nazareth was a stark contrast from our time spent in other Israeli cities and so interesting to see. A place that is etched in my mind and one I will never forget.
Quality of Life –
As previously mentioned, what makes Israel such an easy going comfortable place is because there is a strong sense of harmony among the people. Daily life appears very organized (with the exception of when they are pushing and shoving for position in crowded places). I questioned whether the organized lifestyle was a result of the fact that every single Israeli citizen must serve in the military. Has this military service instilled a set of core values and provided a level of structure that everybody may need in their life? From what I have seen, this mandatory military service established a sense of order. I got a very similar feeling during our time spent in Singapore where their people were living under firm, no-nonsense, military-like laws. It has become evident to me that the majority of ‘us humans’ do not know how to act properly, and are in need of some form of guidance and direction.
In Israel, I noticed strangers interacting with each other and communicating with each other in a very sincere way. Groups of families all were enjoying each others company. Even though we were strangers in this country, we felt a unique sense of family. Almost like Israel had always been our home. Israel has been a very positive experience for me. Having the opportunity to travel around to such a wide range of countries, it has given me the ability to view and understand alternative ways of living by looking at the world from perspectives other than the ones I was raised with. I have come to realize that there are other angles to look at things and our travels have definitely made me more open minded. I really believe the saying, “Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” Well, enough with the introspective. Both Barbie and I leave Israel with smiles and it’s now onto The Land of Oz, The Land of Meat Pies, The Land of No Worries, The Land Down Under…….Australia.