I have just returned from one the most thought stimulating trips I have ever taken… Israel and Jordan. Learning about the diplomatic, economic and cultural relations between these two allied countries and the rest of the world, by seeing it first hand was truly mind-boggling. Without the confusion of the media and hearing perspectives from all sides, leaves one open-minded, compassionate and keen to learn!
I had the honor of meeting and talking with a leading Israeli doctor, a top Israeli journalist, and had lunch at an army camp with soldiers on the border of Israel – their tanks facing Syria. The experience was eye opening. The strong presence of the military had me feeling very safe during my visit, never scared or nervous. Israel’s unemployment declined to its lowest rate in 20 years this August. The country is home to major players in the high tech industry, and has one of the world’s most technologically-literate populations. Its emergence as a hi-tech powerhouse with more venture capital investment per person than anywhere in the world, and the largest number of Nasdaq-listed companies after the US and China – and all because of the military. The Israeli people are in the reserves for 20 years. They begin with a compulsory 3 yrs of service followed by a month every year for the next 20 years.
Crossing the westbank border into Jordan, the feeling of security quickly faded. The people were poor and the area felt very unsettled. Unemployment in Jordan reached its highest rate in the past 4 years this August, a strong contrast to its neighbouring country. Crossing the borders can be time consuming and expensive, but seeing Petra is a must. The tombs and temples dug out of the side of mountains there are visually stunning! In my opinion, visiting Amman is not a necessity.
My terrific tour guides taught me both the ancient history of the area and also its modern comparison. I learned of the division of faiths between the Jewish, Muslim and Christians, which promotes much of the tension between its people. The teachings came first hand by having a Jewish guide in Israel, Christian guide in Bethlehem, and a Muslim guide in Jordan. I found myself more able to try to piece together all the various sides of the story by questioning and challenging these guides to make some kind of conclusion for myself about what is going on there. So interesting and truly mind-boggling – so much hatred stemming from religion!
On a more cultural side, Israel as a country has more meaning than anywhere in the entire world in my opinion. There is so much history in this Jewish promised land where these always persecuted peoples inhabit. From following the old and new testaments throughout Israel, to wandering through the excavation sites and gazing at the ruins from centuries past. In ancient times, wars would destroy cities and a new one rebuilt on top of the old. They are finding bathtubs still intact from thousands of years ago – incredible to see! Following the timeline of history, it is all there for you to explore in Israel.
Such a beautiful country with so much to see and do. The following are some of the things I experienced:
- The Dead Sea is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water in which animals cannot flourish – hence the name. People use the salt and minerals from its waters to create many products from cosmetics to herbal medications. The density of the water makes swimming similar to floating which is a popular attraction for tourists. For those adventurists, you can take a jeep ride or rappel of the cliffs in the desert close by!
- Mt. Masada is an ancient fortification overlooking the Dead Sea where the Jewish rebels committed mass suicide with their families at the end of the first Jewish/Roman war.
- Visited a Jewish Medical University where they are learning such innovative procedures!
- In Tel Aviv I visited the old city of Jaffa, a vibrant modern city, so full of energy and life and situated right next to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
- I kayaked the River Jordan on the border of Lebanon and Syria and into the grottos of Rosh Hanikra.
- Visited the 4,000 yr old ancient city of Acco, home to many archaeological and architectural sites of interest including an underground city.
If you want to mix the mind with pleasure, and the fascination of history with the modernism of the future, contact Boulevard Travel. We are putting a small group package together for 2014!