Israel wasn’t on my travel bucket list. In fact, I knew as much about it as I know about how taxes work….literally nothing. But my best friend was there and watching Broad City, swiping on tinder, and doing homework is no fun alone. I booked myself a plane ticket and off I went. After 17 hours of flights, there she was, in true BFF fashion, waiting for me at the arrivals gate at 3:00am with a sign that said “BOO! Dis Good, Dis Real Good”
My first couple of nights were spent in Tel Aviv. I really immersed myself in the culture…. a.k. a. stayed out until 5:00am for multiple nights in a row. For me this is a fucking miracle as I am perfectly happy being in bed by 9pm, but I was just doing as the locals do. The nightlife in Tel Aviv is a more chill version of the sloppy binge drinking culture over here in Canada, which was to my delight because I suffer from hangovers from hell. For some reason,my body refuses to acknowledge i have ever had a taste of alcohol.
My second favorite thing about the nightlife scene was the Israeli guys. They seem to be almost too polite/shy to approach you which for some might be frustrating but for me it was a refreshing experience not having to explain to some drunk bro that “it’s a girls night” or some bullshit like that to get him to leave us alone.
While in Tel Aviv and hungover AF, I attended my first Shabbat. Shabbat is a weekly day of rest in jewish culture. It begins Friday at sundown and goes until Saturday at sundown. This is a time where friends and family get together and have dinner and drinks and the following day is spent resting. Public transportation does not run, and most businesses are closed which can get a little interesting when you are not jewish so you forget and then run out of food and are forced to go out for insanely expensive dinners. I saw my credit card start tearing up at one point I swear.
My first shabbat happened to fall on my birthday and we went to a house with about fifteen other young people, each of us bringing a dish to share. There is a brief prayer before dinner but other than that, it does not feel as though it is a religion based get together which is great because religion is something i’m not super into. Everyone was so incredibly friendly and they even put together a little birthday cake with some candles for me. So as 15 strangers sang me happy birthday, I sat there like a fucking weirdo but being incredibly thankful for their warm welcome nonetheless.
The rest of the time was spent in Jerusalem. If you are wanting any insight, opinions, or a history lesson on the politics surrounding this city…too bad, this isn’t NPR. I had a weird fear of jerusalem after hearing a story of my friend being kicked in the market by a hasidic jewish man for wearing shorts. Yes, you read that right….he kicked her. But fear was quickly put to rest or at least replaced by my fierce love for falafel. I would love to sit here and tell you that I ate it a couple of times a week and at least pretend like I had some form of self control but that my friends, would be a dirty lie. I ate falafel almost every damn day. Should I have done it? No. Do I regret it? No. Do I wish I ate more of it? Yeah, I do. Sue me.
I did get some actual culture in by going to see the western wall, the tomb of jesus and the Dome of the Rock Mosque. Aside from the beauty of the mosque none of these places meant much to me as I am not religious so I really just left confused as to why people were rubbing their souvenirs in plastic bags all over the Jesus’s tomb….it all seemed very odd to me.
The “Shuk” is the local market in Jerusalem. It is one of the coolest places I have ever been. Fresh produce, spices, tahini, baked goods, fish, and cheese are sold amongst the small corridors in the Shuk. There are coffee shops placed amongst the vendors where you can sit and sip a cappuccino while watching the locals shop for the day or just watch several groups of jewish teenage Birthright tour groups snapchat their little fingers off.
But the real magic of the Shuk happens at night. When the produce vendors shut their stands down, several bars and restaurants open up in the same areas. Whether you want traditional israeli food, lebanese, italian pasta, craft beer, or hookah; the shuk at night has got you covered. Spending time at the Shuk, listening to live music, drinking craft beer, and sitting amongst the dope ass street art made me feel much cooler than I actually am so I tried to spend as much time as I possibly could there. I hoped some of the Israeli we-are-so-hipster-we-are anti-hipster coolness would just wear off on me but it didn’t, I came back as basic as I ever was.
The Shuk is my perfect nightlife situation because it’s super chill…way more chill than Tel Aviv. Hanging out for one beer and being in bed by 11pm is acceptable (JUST THE WAY I LIKE IT!). We did take a wander down to the actual club scene one night. My friend had turned in her last essay of the semester at midnight and was dealing with a one day old break up wound and drama like that deserves whatever the fuck she wanted. I’m sure she could give you a better review of the club scene because honestly whether it’s Saskatchewan, Vancouver or Israel, a club is a club and I hate them all.
Aside from the falafel and craft beer one of the coolest things I was able to do was visit the dead sea. The dead sea, which is actually a lake, is a salt lake located 400 metres below sea level (it is the lowest point on earth.) And that water is no joke. Make sure you are a stable floater because if you get that water in your eyes, you are going to want to die because it stings like a bitch. But once I rinsed my burning eyeballs out, I got my zen on like never before. I have never been in a float chamber, because I’m broke as shitttttt, but I would imagine its just like that but in nature and beautiful. And like the canadian tourists we were, we covered ourselves in that dead sea mud because it is the closest I will ever be to feeling like a Real Housewife at a spa and I wasn’t about to pass that up.
Israel is confusing, exciting, relaxed, hipster, stressful, beautiful, and interesting. It is 100% worth the trip once in your lifetime. Also, everyone is good looking so that should be of some motivation…and did I mention the Falafel?
Shalom My Friends, Shalom.
*Apologies for the lack of photos from Tel Aviv…as mentioned above I was too drunk/hungover the whole time to take any.
Written by: Stevie J.