Revisiting Israel: my first trip of 2013

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After spending New Year’s Eve in Berlin, I’m now in Israel—my first trip of 2013! I’m determined to travel more this year than the last. And for me: half the fun of travel is visiting places and people I already know. It’s been nearly two years since I last visited Israel, and over 2.5 years since I was living (briefly) in Tel Aviv.

It’s nice to be somewhere familiar, but still strange.

Tel Aviv street art

Tel Aviv street art

Israel has always fascinated me as a county. Based on my travel destinations the past few years, you’d probably assume I have an extreme interest in countries with conflicted pasts. Israel, without a doubt, is a country with a unique and interesting history dating back farther than I can imagine.

The cities of Israel and the Palestinian territories (now Palestine) are some of the most fascinating places I’ve visited and, after two years from being away, I was curious to see and learn more about one of my favorite regions. And that’s how I ended up on yet another visit to the Holy Land.

What makes Israel so unique as a travel destination?

I like to say that Israel is one of the more surprising countries I’ve ever visited. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are the main points of tourism and they’re often misunderstood around the world. Though it’s in the Middle East, Tel Aviv is one of the world’s premier nightlife destinations (in addition to being one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities). Jerusalem is an ancient historic city, but today, despite being a politically charged and controversial city, you’ll find more than just holy sites and ancient relics. It’s intense, yes, but it’s also fun and surprisingly exciting.

On this visit to Israel, rather than simply revisit my favorite bars, nightclubs and museums, I’m collaborating with Abraham Tours and Tourist Israel to plan an itinerary visiting tourist destinations I’ve previously skipped. If you’ve been following Travels of Adam on Facebook, you’ve probably already seen some of the exciting things I’ve been doing while here in Israel. On my itinerary:

  • Tel Aviv
    food, nightclubs and live music
  • Mitzpe Ramon
    hiking in the Negev desert along the scenic makhtesh (crater)
  • Nazareth
    staying in the Old City at the legendary Fauzi Azar Inn and learning about the Jesus Trail
  • Jerusalem
    street art tour, nightclubs, hostel parties and exploring parts of the city I never saw before
  • Bethlehem
    visiting the holy sites and learning a bit about the political situation in the West Bank
  • Hebron
    political tour of the West Bank’s largest (and most contested) city

With this trip back to Israel I hope to freshen up my travel guides, meet more people and learn even more about this intriguing land. I won’t lie that the November 2012 war a few months ago (Operation Pillar of Defense) initially frightened me, but after the quick resolution and a number of other reasons, I decided to forge ahead with my 2013 travel plans. And so far, I’m very glad I did.

The past few days in Israel have only reminded me of the great times I had here in the past, and made me even more eager to know and understand more about the Middle East. Any travel that involves exploration of a land, and of the mind, is a good trip for me. I’m still sharing highlights every day on my social networks, but stay tuned for many more posts about this unique travel destination.

In the meantime, feel free to explore my archives from my previous trips to Israel and the West Bank.

Blogs published by Adam Groffman • Please note some posts do make me some money, but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

39 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. i love the way you write about israel and other places i wish to offer you and other to join a new way to travel in israel and the world blend with me /a new way to comunicate with locals and places on a different level.

  2. Thank you for sharing this information about your trip. I’ve been looking at vacation packages but it’s nice to see a personal perspective of the travel. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. I love Israel, it is an amazing country! And Tel Aviv is my favourite city ever. Berlin used to be but for past 5 years Tel Aviv took it place!
    My recommendation in Israel ( no many people do it ) is Akko! Great little city with spectacular Uri Buri restaurant!

    • Glad to hear about your Tel Aviv & Berlin connections Marysia. I feel the same way about both cities, hence my article comparing the two:

      http://travelsofadam.com/2013/02/berlin-tel-aviv/

      • Hi there :) I saw on the review that you have visited israel and I would appreciate if you could provide me some comments. Basically my parents are travelling there tomorrow as we speak and I have been quite worried due to the civil unrest in middle east. From a ex-visitor of israel would you say is still very safe to go as news on bbc and CNN makes me paranoid…. as they highlight a lot of problems around the middle east at present. I hope to hear from you soon as you must be more experience about Israel than I am.

        Many thanks:)
        Lawrence

    • Hi there :) I saw on the review that you have visited israel and I would appreciate if you could provide me some comments. Basically my parents are travelling there tomorrow as we speak and I have been quite worried due to the civil unrest in middle east. From a ex-visitor of israel would you say is still very safe to go as news on bbc and CNN makes me paranoid…. as they highlight a lot of problems around the middle east at present. I hope to hear from you soon as you must be more experience about Israel than I am.

      Many thanks:)
      Lawrence

      • Hey Lawrence, I’m actually as luck would have it back in Israel again this week. Different parts of the country probably have varying levels of safety, but I can tell you Tel Aviv feels very “business as usual” at the moment. It’s smart to ask and I would also check your embassy’s travel warnings if any. The US State Dept posts travel warnings here:

        travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html

  4. What a life you are carving out for yourself Adam, grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns. Love it!

    Hope you don’t mind but I have curated this article and would like to continue with your future articles selectively at adventurebods.com

    You can check it out at http://adventurebods.com/blog/revisiting-israel-my-first-trip-of-2013/

    If you have any problem with curation as a practice don’t hesitate to let me know, but rest assured you will find the proper attribution and linking in place.

    All the best,
    Andy

  5. Adam.

    Hebron and Bethlehem are not located in Israel. You made that mistake on the video of your earlier visit in 2011. (eg. Ramallah is not in Israel) And you’re doing it here. Again. That’s a fundamental fact that you ought to have grasped the first time you went there.

    Even the Israeli Tourist Bureau in the Old City of Jerusalem didn’t have any literature on Bethlehem when I was on a visit to see the West Bank. Only Nazareth.
    Why? Because even Israelis recognize Bethlehem as not being located in Israel and they’re not particularly interested in encouraging you to go there. For starters, you have to go through the security checkpoint there, and the huge Wall surrounding the city with its frightening security towers could trigger uncomfortable comparisons to the Warsaw Ghetto. Which someone has actually spray-painted on the surface of the Wall inside the city. Adam: you don’t convey an accurate illustration of the land picture out there, especially for the Palestinians, when you make a mistake like giving all these locations to Israel.

    • Hey Hilary,
      Thanks for the comment and I definitely commend you on keeping your cool. I’m definitely familiar with the fact that Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem are not a part of Israel but instead under Palestinian control. They’re just on the list here because I visited them while I was visiting Israel. I’ve got some posts about my visit to Palestine in the works — stay tuned!

      • Hilary and Adam surly mistake is on Adam’s side. Surly Bethlehem is a Palestinian Authority territory, but compering Palestinian Authority to Warsaw Ghetto is a clear misuse.
        I have been in Palestinian Authority many times and it looks neither feel like anything close to what Warsaw Ghetto was.
        Looking forward to your post Adam, in the meantime have a look at mine if you wish.

  6. I, too, was surprised by how much I loved Israel. Hope you’re having a blast! I’m SUPER jealous that you’re getting to scope out all the Israeli hotties!

    • Thanks Susan! It was a spectacular trip – keep an eye out for more posts over the next few weeks. So much to share and write about…

  7. I really want to visit Israel someday but I’m afraid of how it can prevent you from traveling to their “enemy” countries. Maybe when I’m ready to get a new passport I can go.

    • Hey, Wil — you can just ask them to stamp a piece of paper instead of your passport. They may ask you why, but I haven’t heard of any border officers refusing to do this. Then just keep the piece of paper with you for your exit. Easy peasy!

  8. Israel has always been on my list. Enjoy!

  9. hey adam. we are israeli and i can’t lie: WE LOVE ISRAEL. enjoy every minute of it. enjoyed the comments too, i must add, and yes, i think (biased I know) that those young israeli men and women are just the sexiest, hottest flesh on the planet. enjoy every minute of it adam. say hi to our home kiryat shemona for us! gabi

    • Cheers Gabi! ♥

  10. This itinerary looks good and I shamefully known nothing much about Israel other than it’s supposed to be beautiful. Looking forward to reading your future posts so I can learn more

  11. Hi Adam – I’m a full-time traveler from NYC who is staying in Tel Aviv for the winter. Would be fantastic to share some coffee and stories from the road if your adventure brings you back this way.

    If you’re around Saturday, Clippa Theater is putting on a (seemingly) amazing wordless, visual theater production – http://www.clipa.co.il/main.php/#/en/productions/guest-shows/yamuna/1

    Thanks for all the hipster tips, and hope you’re enjoying Israel.

  12. Great way to start the year…I’d love to make it to Israel but have no idea how to tackle it. Great tips…

  13. I love love love that street art! It makes me happy!

  14. Israel is a complex place: historic, controversial and most of all fascinating. I can see why you’re returning.

    Near Nazareth we discovered the Ancient Roman town of Zippori-in a National Park. Lots to see and hardly anybody there–I’d recommend it.

    And my mouth is watering thinking of all the great food! :)

  15. Israel fascinates me too. I definitely want to visit when I’m in the area. You have a lot of good stuff on your agenda. Mixing nightlife with history and culture is always the way to go!

  16. We’ve heard so many good things about Israel. We can’t wait to read your updates.

    • Thanks Lane – Stay tuned or be sure to check out my archives from my previous trips through Israel and the West Bank. The link’s above!

  17. Everybody I know who has visited Israel has been blown away by the place. And all of those people told me that it’s also full of the hottest guys in the world. If that’s not a good enough reason to visit, I don’t know what is. Look forward to reading about your trip!

    • Yes, Israel is a truly fascinating place, David. This is my third time visiting the country and each time I find something more amazing and unique than the previous time.

      And the Israeli guys are definitely at the top of the good-looking list.

  18. Sounds like fun! I LOVED Makhtesh Ramon! It was the real highlight of my time in Israel and has got some phenomenal hiking opportunities!

    • Glad to hear you went there Aaron. It was nicer than I thought but I only had time for a short, 3 hour hike because of the weather conditions. There was some flash flooding while I was there and it apparently would’ve been really cool to see if we’d gotten a jeep and drove around. Definitely a place I could return to, though.

  19. I stayed at the Fauzi Azar Inn in June 2012 and it was fabulous – such a well kept hostel and the free tour is really interesting, particularly hearing about the story behind how the hostel came to exist. And there is free cake and tea!

    • The Fauzi really is incredible! I absolutely loved the story about the building’s history and their family. The free cake and tea was really special, too. They even made us free soup while I was there because it was so cold outside!

  20. Enjoy your time back in Israel! I would love to go. I, too, am attracted to places that are a bit less stable than others.

    • Hi Ellen,
      Thanks for the comment. So many places of the world are fascinating, and while I don’t want to ever consider myself as a conflict-tourist, as an avid news-reader, I do tend to find myself more and more interested in visiting places with intense histories.

  21. Adam… how great it is you made it back to that special special place! I don’t think Jerusalem could be over-explored and I would suggest seeing East Jerusalem (Salha-Addin St notably) also. My favorite city in Palestine is Nablus, it’s kind of like the Haifa of Israel, which is simply very livable and not trying to be anything other than it is. If you go to any French Cultural Institute in Palestine, they would be able to connect you to interesting things/people to visit. Also in Nablus (Holy Mt. Gerzim) there is the only remaining Samaritan village which are Palestinian-Jews! After living in Israel for 3 month and Palestine for another 3 months, I felt all twisted and turned around. I just left but I already miss it! So enjoy it and collect the stories, I feel like it is an interesting time to be there! (PS.. if you are feeling adventurous, I heard that Rafah crossing into Gaza is relatively open and safe for visits)

    • Hey Greta,
      Thanks for the wonderful comment. I enjoy East Jerusalem quite a bit – yesterday I visited the Educational Bookshop which was fascinating. I could’ve spent a lot of money in there!

      I haven’t been to Nablus before but maybe I’ll make a visit there later this week. Hadn’t heard it called the Haifa of Palestine but sounds interesting!

      I lived in Tel Aviv for 4 months but never lived in Palestine – just occasional visits. I know the feeling of being “twisted and turned around.” Such an amazing place.

      Not sure I’d attempt to visit Gaza this time around what with the recent war, and still quite a few reports of skirmishes, but I’m sure it’d be fascinating to see first-hand at some point.

      Thanks again for the comment! Were you volunteering here?

  22. Awesome – I’m looking VERY forward to reading more about it all! I share your fascination for places with a troubled past. WIth both of us living in Berlin we’ve picked one of those, and isn’t it amazing how today there’s not much left of that… Have you been to the Balkans at all?

    • Hey Mariella,
      Yeah – I often think about the Berlin history. Tel Aviv and Berlin were never cities I intended to live in, and yet I’ve now lived in both!

      I haven’t been to the Balkans yet — hope to get there soon but I have a lot more to learn about that region as well.

      • I’m thinking you and I should have coffee and talk about places with a dark an twisted history :)

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