When I decided to apply for a scholarship program to take a trip to Israel, I quickly became worried. There seemed to be several fears that my family and friends had. At some point, I, too, became nervous, and I asked myself why is there a fear of Israel. Despite being nervous, I was determined to push through and go on this trip of a lifetime. Now… I could not be more excited that I got to experience Israel.
Experience Israel as a Minority
As an African American woman, I am a minority here in America. Christians, as surprising as it was for me, are minorities in the Holy Land of Israel. Jews, of course, are the majority, followed by the Muslim population. When I told others that I was surprised Christians are a minority, everyone was surprised that I did not realize that. Being a minority in my homeland, it did not bother me to be one here.
A lot of Israelis are darker in skin color, though not as tan as me. I never felt uncomfortable with my skin tone. Before coming, I worried that I would be judged for my darker appearance (I was one of the few black people in my group). This was my first time traveling out of the country, so I had a very narrow-minded view. (I’m ashamed of my thoughts and behavior. I don’t mention this to gloat, I mention to show that I’m not the only one who thinks these things.) Once I got there, I immediately felt guilty for my ignorant thoughts. I was treated no differently, and the people were very friendly. I felt at home here, and for me, that was very important.
Experience Israel as a Native
After being on a plane for over twelve hours and navigating through the airport, we got settled on our bus. Our tour guide began to talk to us and give us the history of Tel Aviv. After giving us the history, he told us “welcome home,” and from that time on, I felt right at home.
During my trip, I had the opportunity to listen to the views of Israelis. I, also, got to listen to the views and perspectives of Palestinians. Confused does not even begin to cover the feelings and emotions of listening and seeing everything for myself. I will not dive into the subject because there is no way for me to channel my thoughts and emotions into words. Also, this post is not to be a political one, it is simply to experience Israel.
In feeling at home, there are things that I had to learn quickly. Waiting in line is for amateurs. I learned to quickly jump in where I could. Furthermore, there is no such thing as staying together unless you literally become links, especially when in the Old City alleyways. When we walked down the Via Dolorosa, we had to lock arms to fit between others who were walking faster or trying to push their way through.
Lastly, though it may not seem like it from my previous statements, the people are really nice and friendly. Take my word for it. The people that I came across were so welcoming. I was especially surprised to be welcomed and included during Shabbat!
Experience Israel as a Vacation Spot
The views in Israel, especially around the Sea of Galilee are some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. The weather was not nearly as bad as I expected. (Maybe this is because Houston has some of the most unpredictable weather and terrible heat.) I will be going back this December, so I am curious to experience their winter weather as opposed to their summer weather. Either way, the beaches are perfection, and as I mentioned previously, the views are phenomenal.
When it comes to the food, it is some of the best that I have ever experienced. I’m a picky eater, and I do not always like trying new food. I don’t think I had a meal, in Israel, that I did not enjoy, from fast food burgers and fries to a hearty Shabbat meal. Visiting expanded my mind substantially. (Helpful Hint: Should you visit Nazareth Village, try their chicken. Oh my gosh! It is the most seasoned and flavorful chicken that I’ve ever had. No, it’s not fried.)
Whether you find yourself staying in Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv, there is a life that can be experienced. In Tel Aviv, we went to Jerusalem Beach, which was a block from our hotel. There was music that serenaded everyone in the near vicinity. There is abundant shopping… literally! Try to the Carmel Market, too. I found some great things and got wonderful deals.
In Jerusalem, the nightlife surprised me. We decided to head to their “mall” and was welcomed with music and dancing. Of course, we joined in and partied until close to midnight. Not once did I feel uncomfortable, even in walking Jerusalem at night.
Will you experience Israel?
The Holy Land knows how to party and vacate, too. Have you ever been to Israel? How was your experience? If you would like to know more about visiting Israel… Let me know in the comments below. Shares are appreciated, too. If you haven’t already, check out how to best plan your vacations while saving money here.
(If you have ever thought of booking a trip to Israel with a group, and would love a good guide, then I have the perfect guide for you. There are many that can be accessed in Israel, but Shai of Shai Nahon Ecological Tourism is definitely the best! I would recommend booking him for your trip. Your experience will be unmatched. I guarantee it!)