A Family Trip to Israel

5 Oct

This next trip and subsequent posts are dedicated to my incredible, supportive, adventursome parents. They both have birthdays this week and are on their way to Florida, in part, to celebrate.  Tell everyone that I said “hi and I miss them!”   I love you guys!

Happy Birthday!!!!!


The Middle East gets a bad rap; that’s no secret. But just like any other place that has its problems, the Middle East also has its gems.  And for less than $300 for a roundtrip ticket from Pittsburgh to Tel Aviv, I practically couldn’t afford not to go.

I wanted to take my all too deserving parents on the trip of a lifetime (and also secretly pretend I was in an Indiana Jones movie, more on that in the next post) and, through a series of events, they decided to join me on my trip to Israel!

I was so excited.  I talked with anyone I knew who had been to Israel or was currently living there, bought several guidebooks and read them cover to cover, and planned a detailed, flexible itinerary with lots of options that was 12 pages long.  As I mentioned, I was excited!  This was going to be the first time since I was fifteen that we had traveled abroad together as a family, and the first time in almost a decade since my mom had taught me how to travel by taking me to Europe (thanks again!).

Flight checklist when traveling with your parents:

  1. Rope
  2. Snacks
  3. More snacks
  4. Even more snacks

Did I mention that the last page of the itinerary was dedicated entirely to food?  We love snacks.  The rope, as we had to explain to the confused TSA agent, was for making our bags as small as possible in order to meet the strict bag allowance.  But we didn’t need it!! Good thinking, though, Mom and Dad 🙂

One of my parents’ jobs was to pack food for the flight. They did not disappoint and filled an entire backpack.  We ended up having snacks for the entire trip, not just for the plane rides.  Perhaps going overboard with planning runs in my blood?  Unknown.jpeg 

And we only suffered one casualty, our peanut butter, which was confiscated as we were going through security at PIT International (the best airport in the world #2017 #lookitup)  Either the peanut butter was too much like a gel or the pilot had a peanut allergy.




One of the reasons I had booked this flight, besides the cost and going to Israel #dream, was to enjoy the 13 hour layover in Iceland.  Not seeing Iceland, exactly, but visiting with a friend who I had met four years earlier — Hulda.  You can read about her in a blog from 2013 called  THERE ARE GREAT PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.  She is incredible.




Hulda picked us up at the airport, drove us back to her house, let us sleep while she went to work, and then came home early to take us back to the airport.  Is there anyone kinder?!  I see why I wrote the title of that blog post from 2013 in all capital letters.  It was so good to see her!!!!

Anyway, finally we landed in Tel Aviv.  Usually, I’d have found myself a place to stay on Couchsurfing (or with my friend Nate, see below) but since I was with my parents I used Booking.com. So we show up at our first hotel… and they weren’t open.   Hmmmm.  We found some stuff to do (hung out with Nathan!) and then returned a few hours later.  This time, they were open but the hotel didn’t have our booking.  Gulp.  Really testing our patience as a family on day one.  

We were starting to get annoyed when the hotel man decided to make up for the problem by giving us the nicest room in the entire place!  My mum was skeptical at first until we went upstairs to look at it. “We’ll take it.”, all three of us said at the same time. 



Seriously, check out the view from our balcony!


Staying in that room the first night in Israel was sort of like eating out all of the cheese and croutons in a salad and then being left with the vegetables.  The vegetables would have been really good on their own if we just hadn’t eaten all of that cheese right before.  It was probably going to all be downhill from here.  But, as we sat in the living room (yes, there was a living room) and fully appreciated this grand apartment I thought  ‘who knows what’s actually going to happen with the sleeping arrangements on this trip?’  Now, you might think me since 12 pages of itinerary means I planned this trip thoroughly but, no, that turned out to not be true. #foreshadowing #mistakes


Let me use this opportunity to sincerely thank my friend Nathan, whom I had met in Nepal (also 4 years earlier).  Nathan had procured for us two golden SIM cards.  These were impossible for us to get without him (we tried for hours) and invaluable to us as we travelled. They allowed us to keep in contact with one another and also check to Twitter (not that we ever did that – but still, it was nice to know we could).



‘Mi and Nathan.



He also took us to the “best” hummus restaurant in town.  Although, we would have settled for the second or even third best if it was quieter and there was less yelling.



There’s a reason Israel is called the Holy Land: because of the gelato from Anita’s. That’s a fact, don’t Google it.


We visited with my parents old friend, Lori, before it was time to leave Tel Aviv.  We’d heard traffic was bad, so we had to get an early start. You know what they say, early bird gets the Shoshuka. Or something like that.



Day One: Learning Hebrew.


The next place we went was in total disrepair, though I guess that was the point. The ruins of Caesarea gave us a great view into the past.




And then it was up the coast to Rosh HaNikra –  which were some spectacular Grottos along the Mediterranean.



A very full day of traveling!


We didn’t have anywhere to sleep that night due to a clerical error. *cough cough.  My bad.*  I know what you’re thinking, why not stay at the ruins? Well, my dad is picky (he wanted a place with beds and a roof, imagine that!), so we found ourselves on the side of the road, Googling hotels nearby, supremely grateful for the SIM cards from Nate.

A nice mother and child stopped to see if everything was okay.  They spoke English and invited us into their home while we searched for a place to sleep.  After a couple of minutes the father of the family offered us their home for the night (very sweet), but we figured it would be best to stay somewhere without two crying babies.  #picky but also, #thatwouldhavebeenrough

The hotel we chose ended up being super fancy (read: expensive) but it was late and we didn’t have much of  choice and the breakfast buffet spread was iNcReDiBle.  My dad thinks it was worth it.  Before morning, though, we noticed we were sharing our room with other guests, some not-so-friendly cockroaches.  Ew!  We called the front desk to complain, and they brought us food to apologize.  It was a nice gesture, but wouldn’t that just make the cockroach problem worse by feeding them?  We fell asleep confused.  But again, that breakfast!!!


This seems like a good time to suggest yinz to follow me on SnapChat!                                  bammi23       I post lots of my travel updates on here.  And it’s always in real time because well, that’s how SnapChat works.  You would have seen a video of the breakfast spread that I posted!


Later, we spent hours at a Holocaust Remembrance Museum, crying as we walked around, before spending the rest of the day in the car heading south.



And getting to have dinner with friends! 🙂


The next day was an early one (they all are, really, with AdventureSam).  I wanted to avoid other tourists.



Greeting the day in Mitzpe Ramon.



My mom’s a yoga teacher, my dad’s a photographer, and I’m a traveler. ❤ ❤ ❤ Three hearts.


We had a wonderful experience because the tour buses don’t begin to arrive until 9am.



Mitzpe Ramon is called the Grand Canyon of Israel, and named after Israel’s first astronaut. 



I asked these guys what products they use to get their horns to look like that each morning, but I just got neighed at.


Further south, we visited a kibbutz.  It was our first time and I’m glad we did it together.  Growing up my mom told the three of us that she had had this dream of raising children on a kibbutz.  She said that when she was younger, she was 20% prepared to make this happen.  Fast forward a couple of years 😉 After our actual visit to an actual kibbutz, my mom realized that she was glad she never fulfilled her dream – apparently children who grew up on a kibbutz have all sorts of psychological problems from the way they were raised.  Not to mention it felt like a cult. #themoreyouknow

That same day (whew!) we were able to make it to Eilat, a southern town in Israel (and also drive to the border with Egypt, just to see).



Eilat is positioned along the Red Sea, renowned for its snorkeling, but not for having an actual red sea.


That night we stayed in an Airbnb run by very nice Jewish boy (we liked him Eilat #puns) and, you guessed it, woke up very very early the next day.  This time, the goal was to make it across the boarder, heading to Jordan!  The boarder station opened at 5:30am and didn’t let us bring water across. So, when the alarm went off (4:30am) we popped out of bed, chugged water, and headed out the door for another adventure.

For me, traveling is about the journey, and what better way to do that than to get up early?! And who better to share that with than the two people that love you the most in the world?!!

Shalom.  And happy belated Sukkot!,

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