I am super lucky to have just completed a four day trip in Israel, thanks of the world-famous plant breeding company, Danziger. You can read my posts about the fabulous plants I’ve seen HERE, but right now I want to tell you about my tourist activities!
Israel is a fascinating country, which is a blend of many different cultures, and this can be seen from the very moment you step outside. I was hosted by the marketing team of Danziger, a group of five girls, all with very different backgrounds. I really enjoyed chatting to them about where their families were from, it ranged from Iraq through to Germany and Morocco.
I was privy to the overwhelming Israeli hospitality from the moment I arrived, as coffee, ice cream, fresh water, fruit, and much more was thrust upon me. I was also given a cap and some suncream. The first lunch we were given really ticked my new experiences box. It was a very simple sandwich, filled with roast aubergine, hummus and boiled egg. You know when you have meals that you will remember for the rest of your life? It was one of those!
In the evening, the girls took me out in old Jaffa. This historical area has been gentrified over the last few years, so is a tad more glossy than it has been.
We had the most sublime mezze of Israeli dishes, eaten outside in the still warm air! This was followed by delicious dessert, and lots of it. This is when I discovered malabi, a sublime yoghurty milky pudding with rose water flavouring. I can still taste it now…
We walked around Jaffa as much as the girl’s high heels would allow, making sure that we visited a tree that I’d been shown on Twitter. It was a suspended orange tree!
It reminded me of the moment when Gabi from the management team offered me a fresh orange earlier in the day, my usual reluctance with citrus meant I initially refused. But, heck, you don’t do that with food with Israeli, so it was thrust into my hand. Turns out it was a sun-ripened ball of wonderfulness, not like the face-convulsing oranges I’d been subjected to during my english childhood!
We made a plan for the next day to go to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. I slept well that night, with my belly full with seven types of hummus!
My taxi pick me up the next day, and was very chatty. Apparently, I had slept through a public siren in the early hours, urging people to run for cover. It seems that overnight there had been some conflict on the Gaza Strip.
Now, I’m not the type to unnecessarily panic, and I tend to draw from the people around me. Like the time I was in a Japanese restaurant and there was an earthquake, people were just calmly checking the weather on their smart phones rather than sobbing under their stools. So the driver told me the situation, and said that each side had been firing missiles. He also explained about the Iron Dome that Israel had built, which intercepts and disintegrates 90% of missiles whilst they’re still in the air. So that means that the siren is telling you to run for cover from shrapnel, rather than a full on missile.
When I met the girls again that day, they were equally un-panicked. It was enlightening and amazing to me that these people live with risks quite unknown to an English person each day, yet they just treat it the same as checking a weather report before you choose to go out with an umbrella or not. I guess everybody has a different normal.
On the way to Jerusalem, we chatted with the tour guide Oden, about culture and all the things that make Israel Israel. I love asking people questions, as anybody that knows me will know, so this was a magical time for me! Some call this nosey…! But I think it is courteous to ask and be interested in the culture you’re spending time in.
Jerusalem was super cool. There was some traffic getting into the city, but this could be partly because it is a safe space on days when there’s conflict. As we moved our way through a modern shopping centre, the girls bought emergency denim jackets, as Jerusalem was a touch more chilly than it had been in Tel Aviv. Of course, to an English person, it was just an enjoyable summer temperature!
Jerusalem was a buzz, with every different culture, which is one of my favourite things about any major city. I saw many religions too, side by side, and some faces in religious outfits that I didn’t quite expect. Of course, my inquisitive brain was going into overdrive.
We toured all the different parts of the old city, visiting every different belief too. At the end, I made a wish at the Wailing Wall, written onto an old till receipt. Apparently it works, even if you’re using scrap paper!
After a pretty heavy backstreet hummus lunch, where we dipped raw onion into this chickpea dream liquid, we then drove on to the Dead Sea.
We had a quick pit stop on the way to ride a camel. I was disappointed when my camel navigator just took us around a school coach and back. So I demanded another trip, in order to get the photo opportunity! The girls asked me if I’d been on a camel before, not knowing that I once spent a whole bloody afternoon on one travelling across the Sahara. I know that specific type of ass pain!
We got to the Dead Sea, and it was bikinis for everyone. Here was the moment I’ve been waiting for since I was a child, reading books in my Nana’s back room about the wonders of the world.
Apparently, you float. I can’t even float in a municipal swimming pool, so I was a little bit sceptical. I also don’t like deep water, so I’m a little bit of a pussy when it comes to going into the sea. However, it absolutely works! You float from the very moment you get in. Even if you try to get up and out of the water, it kind of pushes you back in!! Wowser!
That evening, we were invited at the family is home for a big meal. This, ironically, turned out to be a Chinese meal. We sat around a table outside, people with mixed Israeli heritage, a Japanese customer, a German customer, and a few others. I love these moments when all cultures blend.
The next day, I took myself off around Neve Tzedek, a bit￼￼￼ of a hipster neighbourhood around Tel Aviv. ,After an hour, I got a call from the girls, they wanted to host me again. So they sent a tour guide called Libby to take me around some of the cooler parts of the city.
This was amazing. I had a fall plant-based tour of Tel Aviv, Libby had put together an amazing programme, where we visited brand new house plant shops and the garments district, we tasted plant-based medicinal drinks and experienced gazoz (which I’ll write about soon!), and ate more delicious hummus. Oh Tel Aviv, my heart and belly were full!
For the rest of the day, I endlessly wandered, one of my favourite things to do in the city. I marvelled at the gorgeous colourful markets, the rather brown handsome men, the busy eclectic streets, the hotchpotch and sometimes ruined architecture, and pledged to come back.
Thank you again Danziger, I’m sure I will be back, hopefully to work on a project or two with you guys!
Check out my top 10 plants from Novemberfest here.