In February 2018, we took a trip to Israel. My wonderful college-and-beyond friend Deb was living there with her family and we decided that, since we didn’t get to visit her in Thailand, we’d make a trip of it and spend time with them. This turned out to be a very, very good decision indeed. The trip was absolutely amazing, and one that I’ll never forget.

I booked the flights so that on our way to Israel, we would have a long layover in Paris. I figured this would be a good opportunity to break up the flight a bit, stretch our legs, and get to revisit Paris – this time with Billy, who was nearly 3.

Here’s a map of where we visited!

Day 0

We left Boston Logan around 8pm.

Day 1

We landed in Paris Charles de Gaulle around 8am.

We took the RER to Saint-Michel Notre-Dame and then found a little boulangerie nearby and had breakfast. After that, we walked over the bridge to Île de la Cité. It was freaking cold so we definitely wanted to find somewhere indoors to check out. We briefly considered going into Notre-Dame, but since Jon and I had been there already we decided against it (and then it burned down a year later, oops). 

Instead, we headed to Sainte-Chappelle. Good call, too, as it’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve never seen such gorgeous stained glass, before or since.

Afterward we walked over to Pont Neuf so we could say hello to the Eiffel Tower. Did I mention how cold it was? Billy was crabby in the only photo I got of all three of us there. 

Then we had some lunch and then headed back to the airport for the next leg of our trip.

Upon arriving at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, we met a familiar face – Deb’s husband Bill. He brought us to our apartment and we all crashed pretty hard after a long, long day.

Day 2

The next day we met up with Deb, Bill, and their two girls and headed to Yarkon Park for a day of fun for the kids.

That evening we had dinner at Deb and Bill’s place and enjoyed catching up with them over a glass of wine.

Day 3

We headed out with Deb early the next morning. Our destination? Jerusalem. Deb had booked a tour guide for us, who turned out to be fantastic. We walked through the city streets toward the Western Wall. Jon and I had to go to separate blocked-off portions of the wall. There were all kinds of papers and notes placed in the cracks of the wall, which was very cool to see in person. 

We then got to go up to the Temple Mount. Apparently the tour guide had tried the previous day and the Israeli police ended up not allowing anyone enter, so we were a bit nervous we wouldn’t be admitted. We made it to the top and were greeted with the silver-domed Al-Aqsa mosque and the absolutely breathtaking tiled Dome of the Rock. Deb was quick to warn me and Jon not to hold hands or hug each other; even though we were married, men and women weren’t allowed to touch. Even though we weren’t required, Deb and I covered our heads out of respect and we had already made sure we were wearing long sleeves and long pants (they provided skirts to anyone whose clothing they deemed too revealing, including shorts and leggings).

From the Temple Mount we could see the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.

We had a phenomenal lunch in the Muslim Quarter (I totally did not eat my weight in falafel) and then walked up the Via Dolorosa (where the stations of the cross purportedly took place) and then wandered through the markets.

After we left the old city, we headed to the shuk, where we ate dinner and I bought some spices to bring home for friends (and for us!).

Day 4

The next day we took a bus tour to the Dead Sea and environs. It was cool stopping at sea level… and then continuing down, down, down.

We drove past Jericho and stopped in Beit Ha’arava, a kibbutz in the West Bank. I bought just absolutely humongous dates and they were delicious. We also saw a dude just chilling with some camels on the side of the road, with which I was completely enchanted.

We then continued on to Qasr el Yahud, supposedly the baptismal site of Jesus. It was very quiet and solemn, a really beautiful place right near where the River Jordan meets the Dead Sea. We could see Jordan directly across the river (and my phone was convinced we were in Jordan for a while, which was kind of a problem since we got free data in Israel but not Jordan!). It was kind of a strange thing that it was so peaceful, since there were signs everywhere warning not to go beyond the fence because of land mines.

We next headed to Ein Gede, an oasis and nature reserve where we hiked up to a waterfall. It was really quite pretty and we got some really astounding views of the Dead Sea.

From there, we went to Masada, King Herod’s palace, built on a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea (yes, I was singing Herod’s Song from Jesus Christ Superstar the entire time). We took a cable car to get to the top and then explored the ruins.

After our explorations, we traveled back to the north end of the Dead Sea to a beach and went swimming. It was an experience for sure; trying to stand back up from floating was certainly interesting, lol.

From there, it was back to Tel Aviv, and dinner with Deb and her little ladies.

Day 5

The following day, Deb drove us up to Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanon border. We took a cable car down into the sea caves. He was pretty excited about the cable car, but this may have been Billy’s least favorite part of the trip  the sea was fairly choppy which made for some very loud grottos. 

Next we went to Caesarea National Park to have lunch and so we could check out Herod’s summer palace.


Then it was back to Tel Aviv for the night.


Day 6

After some morning silliness

we headed out with Deb to Old Jaffa. We had a wonderful time wandering around, and had a phenomenal portside lunch al fresco. And Billy made a new friend, of course.

We picked up the girls from school and the kids got to play at the playground, and then we had dinner at Deb and Bill’s.

Day 7

The next day we headed out on another tour, this time to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. It was interesting to see all of the places we’d heard about from catholicism as kids.

In Nazareth, we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation and St. Joseph Church (supposedly the site of Joseph’s home and/or carpentry shop).

We stopped at Tabgha, where the loaves and fishes thing supposedly happened.

Next in our travels was Capernaum, purportedly Jesus’ second home and where he preached and healed people. 

We ate lunch on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and then drove around it and into the Golan Heights.

Our final stop was Yardenit, a secondary baptismal site on the River Jordan. This was opened while the war between Israel and Jordan was going on and the original site, Qasr el Yahud, was closed due to fighting. This place was… very, very touristy. Billy and I put our feet in the river while we watched people get baptized nearby.

When we got back to Tel Aviv, we went out for a Purim party. Billy got dressed up and we walked around a bit.

Day 8

For our final day in Israel, we spent the day with Deb and the girls. We went down to the beach and the kids played in the sand, and I got to put my feet in the Mediterranean for the first time. 😊 

We also saw some very interesting Purim costumes. 

We went back to Deb and Bill’s and let the kids play together, and then soon after it was time to head to the airport and back home.

Our trip to Israel was absolutely unforgettable. It’s a beautiful land, and I’m so glad we took the opportunity to travel there!

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