There are those moments in life that go beyond expectations, a sequence of rare experiences that force you to live in the presence and to truly enjoy every second of it. My seven days journey to Israel was such a moment. For the short time being I forgot about the thoughts I was thinking, the plans I was making and the memories I was holding on to.
So I can already tell you this: my writings won’t give you any insights on historical, political or religious situations and nor will I give you a review of all the places-to-be in Tel Aviv. Just do a Google search and you’ll find all the information you want on these subjects. My goal is to describe you, the best I can, the little things that caught my eye and my senses in the Holy Land.
Before I start my story it’s important for you to know who the protagonists are. So let me introduce to you Marie-France Vodikulwakidi and Marilyn Ambach: two strong, intelligent and sweet women. MF is originally Congolese but has been living in Belgium the greatest part of her life, she’s not only my colleague but also a dear friend. Mar(k)ske was born in Antwerp but moved to Tel Aviv a few years ago. She’s doing a fantastic job in concert production for artists such as Leonard Cohen and Cyndi “Girls just wanna have fun” Lauper.
My story starts on January 1st, 2014 when Marie-France and I finally landed on Israeli grounds around 11pm. First we dropped our stuff at Marilyn’s place and we immediately headed to Benedicts, my favorite breakfast place in Tel Aviv. This became the indication of one week full of play, no sleep and plenty of coffee. The energy floating through TLV is so full of magic that every moment you spend sleeping seems like an enormous waste of time.
Every morning we did our very best to get up early which isn’t our best feature to be very honest. What’s so beautiful about TLV around this time of year is the mystic, kind of winter’ish light. To enjoy that experience waking up before 10 am is required, because at 4.30 pm sunset is already there. During the day we tried to walk around as much as possible since it’s the preferred way to fully absorb all the impressions and discover the finest places.
One of those walks led us to the African part of the city thanks to friend and guide Jeremy Fogel. Here we discovered a different kind of Tel Aviv with hidden treasures such as the little garden from a local artist you can see on the first picture. Just being there and picking grapefruits from the tree made me think that the simple things in life actually are the ones that impress you the most. The three children we met there are Jeremy’s neighbors and compared to our ‘life standards’ they have nothing but a really small house and their family. When I saw the smiles on their faces when we brought them some bananas I realized how spoiled we all are and that most of the time we’re making a lot of fuss about things that aren’t essentially relevant.
To keep those simple things in mind, we went to a different greengrocer’s stall every day to cook our own meals instead of going to restaurants. Every evening we had our special “girls just wanna have fun” cosy moment in the kitchen. We laughed, talked and sang while cutting vegetables and making tahina. After dinner Marie-France and I went out most of the days to discover a small part of the TLV nightlife while Marilyn was occupied organizing the tour of her latest friend Cyndi Lauper. About our crazy nights out in town, the only thing I can say is: what happens in Tel Aviv, stays in Tel Aviv…
What I couldn’t do on my last visit to the Holy Land and definitely wanted to experience this time, was a trip to the Dead Sea and of course a visit to the place where it all started, Jerusalem. So we rented a car and with just some road indications from Marilyn, Marie-France and I headed to the lowest place on earth.
Driving through the Israeli landscape and seeing traffic signs to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho was definitely special. As you may already know or are finding out right now, my entire life I’ve been very interested in history with in particular everything that happened before the fall of the West Roman Empire. I can’t even express how fascinating it was to finally be driving through the country that still plays such an important role in many modern cultures.
Our first stop was the Dead Sea which is known for its large amount of salt and skin healing powers. Even though it wasn’t that warm, Marie-France and I went into the water, rubbed ourselves in with mud and enjoyed floating. This is a kind of unusual and funny experience I can definitely recommend. Afterwards we went wild in the souvenir shop buying all kinds of skin products just to keep this experience alive when back in Belgium.
And last but not least there’s Jerusalem… the Holy City that carries so many years of history in its walls that you can actually feel the historical energy hovering. The experience of being there blew me off my feet, definitely when standing in front of the Western Wall. All those different people with their own religions, emotions and thoughts facing an enormous amount of holy rocks. The atmosphere was emotionally loaded and very serene at the same time. Marie-France and I took our time to say a few words ourselves and walked away backwards because there’s one very important rule, never turn your back at the wall!
I’ll be repeating myself when I say this journey was beyond fantastic… Even now, one week later, I’m suffering from a weird and inexplicable nostalgia.
Before really ending this post I just want to say a few words… Markske, thanks for everything, you were fantastic And MFke thanks for being such a great friend… Love you long time girls and we definitely have to do this again!
If you want to discover more about Israel and Tel Aviv, definitely check out Marilyn’s blog for all inside information:www.marilynjosephine.com