We spent 2 weeks in Israel with my parents recently and had the most wonderful and relaxing time (check out Abe’s latest video montage at the end of the post for proof!). We felt so content: we were pampered like crazy by my parents, drank lots of limoncello in the hot tub on our terrace, ate hummus daily, and spent hours wandering happily around Tel Aviv. It was like a vacation within our vacation. And, on top of all that, there’s just something about that city that makes me feel at home.
It might be because strangers tend to treat you like you’re family, even if you’ve only just met them. Like when we drove from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and back with my parents and a hired driver. You could swear that my dad and the driver knew each other since childhood – complaining about their wives, laughing out loud about the torture of marriage, patting each other on the back… the driver literally gave my dad his card and told him to call him if he wanted to get some lunch. Not a cab ride, mind you, just a completely hetero besties lunch date.
And then the driver proceeded to thrust his friendly life advice my way: I should have babies NOW and move to Israel with my husband. That way my parents could take care of my kids. What am I waiting for, he asked? It’s what’s best for me. If the taxi driver says so it must be true, right?
Anyways, as I was saying, we had an incredible time in Tel Aviv. I’ll change the tone a bit though, and tell you about the more emotional moments for me. We were lucky to spend Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) in Tel Aviv. On the 2 first days, a siren is sounded throughout the country to remind people of the fallen – and it’s really beautiful and touching. The country comes to a halt, in part because every family unfortunately knows someone who has been hurt or killed. Everyone stops what they are doing: cars pull over on the highway, people get off their bikes, and friends stop mid-conversation and stand in silence. It’s really powerful, and I think I’ll never forget how it felt to stand on our balcony, overlooking a suddenly still city with that mournful siren ringing loudly in my ears.
Thankfully, on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence day, in case you’ve already forgotten), the city’s mood changes from somber to ecstatic. It’s the happiest day I’ve seen in the country, filled with parties, concerts, music and dancing. My awesome cousin Eric and his girlfriend were in the city and had tickets to an open bar party on their hotel rooftop. Free drinks, great views, music, good company… did I mention it was an open bar? We were IN. We spent the night celebrating, watching a group of gay men come in and out of a bathroom wiping white powder from their noses (powdered sugar?), chatting and laughing until the wee hours (ish, we left at 3AM, but that’s not bad by married people standards).
What else can I tell you? We visited some of Abe’s family in Haifa, and checked out the beautiful Bahá’í gardens while we were there. We visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and thanks to a wonderful Israeli friend we received a VIP tour of the Jerusalem tunnels. It was a perfect 2 weeks, and the ideal way to unwind before heading to a much less comfortable hostel in the heart of Istanbul.
To get a feel for our Israeli adventures, check out Abe’s spectacular montage below (or see the high res version here). As a bonus, you’ll also get to see us sweating our way up the very steep Salève mountain near Geneva. Hope you enjoy!