We had a jam packed meeting schedule for the majority of the time we spent in Israel recently, but given it was Stuart’s first opportunity to join me on a visit here I wanted to make sure we had some time for him to see some of the beautiful and incredibly diverse sights that are contained within this relatively tiny country.
We landed early on Monday morning to a sight that I hadn’t seen on any of my previous visits – pouring rain. Just after we arrived at the hotel though the sun came out, so I suggested we took a quick walk to the old port of Jaffa before our meetings started a lunch time. We ended up with a couple of hours of sunshine and warm enough temps to see Stuart need to strip down to a t-shirt (and a nice piece of Lions AFLW branding!), while we clocked a lazy 14km of walking through Tel Aviv before lunch.
From then the temperature plummeted and the sun didn’t come out again until Friday, but neither did we as we went from meeting to meeting, including the Our Crowd Investor Summit that formed the overall purpose of our trip.
We woke up to blue skies on Friday morning, and headed off bright and early to Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum and memorial overlooking Jerusalem. I’d visited this incredibly moving place previously and Stuart also appreciated the chance to increase our understanding of the terrible events that had played such a significant role in the formation of the nation state of Israel.
From there our guide changed the mood completely with a visit to the market place, which was packed with shoppers preparing for the evenings Shabbat dinner. My sweet tooth fell victim to the rugelach (insanely delicious chocolate pastries) and the hundred and one flavors of halva, before we headed to the Old City to walk off some of the calories we’d consumed.
The Old City is both incredibly beautiful and to my (admittedly very limited in its understanding) viewpoint an illustration of modern day Israel’s mashed up mix of old and new, including the different influences of the Jewish, Moslem and Christian religions.
Within its narrow cobbled streets you can pass by a tattoo parlour,
From the rooftops the white limestone which is compulsory for all Jerusalem construction is clearly visible, broken up by the golden Dome of the Rock.
The sun might have been out but it was still only 5 degrees so we retreated to the warmth of the hotel where I reiterated that my failure to pack swimmers when we were visitng the Dead Sea the following day was of no consequence, as there was no way I would be getting in the water in those kind of temperatures.
Luckily Stuart packed an extra set of gym gear that I could use to swim in just in case, because by the time we got south to Masada the following morning it was significantly warmer. My previous visit to Masada had been on crutches and on a day when the temperature was close to 40, so I have to say I enjoyed the walk around the ruins of this ancient city, built by King Herod in 37-31 BC on a mountain top plateau surrounded by cliffs, a whole lot more this time round.
The views alone would make the trip to the top of the mountain worthwhile, but the level and complexity of the design and architecture, all done a couple of thousand years ago without the benefit of any of the modern day tools we could consider essential for such a project, never ceases to amaze me.
The storage rooms shows the magnitude of the supplies held for the residents of the city, and the water capture and storage design shows an incredible sophistation of thinking.
In addition to the palace bathhouse with its beautiful mosaic floors, the fact that there was also a public pool, complete with locker facilities, shows just how effective those water capture mechanisms were despite the very barren nature of the surrounds.
After a morning spent with the Dead Sea as a vibrant blue highlight in the background of our view, it was time to head there and get up close and personal. I was still dubious that my hatred of cold water swimming would see me actually get in, but our guide assured me that the temperature would continue to climb as we continued our descent to what is the lowest place on the planet at 400 feet below sea level.
She was right, and while low 20’s wouldn’t normally entice me into the water I figured the opportunity to experience swimming in the Dead Sea wasn’t going to present again in a hurry and I needed to harden up and don my highly unflattering cobbled together swimwear (comprising my workout top and Stuart’s skins shorts) and give it a try. Everything you’ve heard or read about it true, it’s impossible not to float due to the high salt content of the water, and your skin does feel softer than a babies bum post your dip.
Sadly those hydrating effects didn’t last for long as it was time to head straight to the airport and start the 24hr journey home, by the end of which I was back to my usual post flight skin like a lizard, but I could definitely understand why it has the reputation it does.
A whirlwind visit, but one that saw Stuart leave with an understanding of why I never hesitate to visit Israel whenever the opportunity arises, and also meaning I’ll be unlikely to be making too many future visits solo now he knows what he’s been missing out on.