Jerusalem skylineI’ve been in Israel for two full months already. I’d always kind of expected to want to slow my trip down once I started my travel in the Middle East, but wasn’t sure of it until I crossed the border into Eliat. Summer in Israel, summer in Tel Aviv was something that had been on my mind for a while. Living in Tel Aviv was something that wasn’t on my mind, however. That was, until I arrived.

Eliat is a bit of a shock coming from the Sinai. Where the Sinai beaches are laid-back, quiet & meditative, the Eilat beach scene is much more like Miami during Spring Break (or so I imagine). It felt strangely familiar (being “Western” and all) but different; welcoming but detached. I loved it.

I spent a full four hours in Eilat before moving on into the heart of Israel—Jerusalem. Like I’ve mentioned before, Jerusalem really is unlike anywhere else. The history, the culture, the sights. Everything about it is different. There’s an intensity in the air and you can feel people’s passion, people’s spirituality. The intensity is inside the walls, inside the people. It’s both exciting and terrifying, but all very comfortable. It almost feels like a city for everyone.

Citadel Youth Hostel Rooftop
Sleeping on the roof of the Citadel Youth Hostel. For a full week this was my bedroom.

All this was in my thoughts in my first 8 days ‘traveling’ in Israel during summer. This was in July, the summer heat beating down while I slept on hostel roofs and wandered ancient streets. When I arrived in Tel Aviv on a sherut bus from Jerusalem, the city seemed cool and detached from the rest of Israel. It had been difficult to leave Jerusalem so I made a decision I’d go back. I wanted to see some friends in Tel Aviv, but I knew I needed more time in Jerusalem.

Deciding to spend a summer in Tel Aviv

My first week living in Tel Aviv I spent the scorching hot afternoons on the beach; the early evenings on the computer. I was looking for a job—an acceptable excuse to stay longer. I e-mailed anyone and everyone. I had nothing to lose. I went so far as to e-mail the Taglit Birthright group in America asking if I could hop on one of their popular (and free!) “Birthright” programs for North American Jews (“Sorry, but you have to apply from America”).

I looked at several options and after a few days, I found an internship at a nonprofit. A short e-mail exchange, an interview, and both I and the company were hooked on each other. It wasn’t the cheapest nor the easiest of my available options, but it was potentially the most exciting & interesting option. Summer in Israel? Yes, please.

And here I am. I didn’t get the chance to live in Jerusalem (the internship is in Tel Aviv), but Jerusalem isn’t far. I’ve had the chance to see and learn things I never would have while being here in Tel Aviv. It’s a different kind of travel. Summer in Tel Aviv? Yes, thank you. Living in Tel Aviv? Why not?

Two months is not a lot of time. I’ve got one more month to go before I start backpacking again. India is my next destination (though I don’t have a ticket yet). I’ve learned so much about Israel in my short time here, more than I would have in my just a few weeks, but obviously less than a lifetime. It’s maybe not enough, but at least I feel more comfortable seeing and knowing these places that you hear about so often. Israel is in the news and at least now I can claim some sort of connection to the place, however weak.

I’m already beginning to figure I’ll need to do this again elsewhere in the world. A few months living in a single place. A place where you can experience a culture, meet different people, get to know a place. And learn more about myself.

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2011 update: in fact, I did end up doing this again somewhere else in the world: living in Berlin! I also ended up spending a full four months living in Tel Aviv. Read about my final thoughts on my summer in Tel Aviv here: Living in Tel Aviv

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11 comments

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  1. Amazing post here, Adam. Not only have you been able to left everything back and embarked in a LT trip, but you also succeeded in staying in Israel as you wanted to. Congrats and well done.
    I hope to visit Israel soon, but right now I am based in Qatar and could not make it back with an Israeli stamp on my passport.
    Keep going,
    Diego

    • Thanks Diego!
      Qatar sounds like an really interesting place to settle down yourself.

  2. Adam, I read your post when you first posted it but wasn’t able to comment coz my connection in Hurgada was so bad. Now I’m back to Cairo and I want to tell you that I loved this post. I so understand the feeling of wanting to spend more time in a place… a place that was once unknown… and now gives you so many emotions!
    No rush to move on to the next place.
    And then who knows what other surprises the world has to offer:-)
    I’m happy that you found that internship program and that you are enjoying it. Hope to find something soon too here in Cairo.
    May be visiting Israel soon… :-)
    Thanks for this post, it’s so great to know that there are other ppl out there that left their home to get into the unknown. The unexpected, amazing, fascinating unknown <3

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  4. I’m pretty interested to see India myself…. Just about to buy my ticket there!

  5. Slow seems to be the way to go. Interested to hear about India as I’ll be heading there in February.

    • I’m interested to see what India is like myself! I’ve heard and read so much, but feel like I know so little. Just about to buy my plane ticket now!

  6. Take it slow and take it easy. Thank you for sharing the story with us.

    • Thanks Laura! Slow and easy. Also—cheap!

  7. Sounds like you’ve been having a fantastic time in Israel. My mom spent about 2 weeks with a friend and her family over in Eliat and it made a big impression on her.

    • Eliat is interesting, for sure. I was only there for a few hours, but it was a big shock from the rest of the Middle East.

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