February 17th, 2020, Atlanta, GA / Giselle Ave. Media — Greetings Travelers! How’s your month going so far? Hopefully 2020 hasn’t been too hard for you, after all– we’re just getting started! I have some exclusive content to share with my travelers, it’s long overdue.
7 Things I Learned During My Trip to the “Holy Land”of Israel
Last Fall, I took my first international “business” trip to the “Holy Land,” of Israel. I was invited to travel to Tel Aviv, Israel while working on a contract with a startup company based here in Atlanta. The company has a global mission —and reach, with the entire software development based in Israel. As you can imagine, it’s pretty difficult to get everyone on the same page with teams based in Atlanta GA and Tel Aviv, Israel; so the company founder decided to unite us all as one, in the form of an adventurous trip to the Holy Land of Israel!
I will add that this was an alleged “business” trip, because there was way more play than work, but it was definitely a blog-worthy adventure. As with any new experience, there were good times, and bad– but this experience taught me more about myself and helped me widen my perspective on the world as we know it.
1. Have I Been Here Before?
When we visited Old Jerusalem, my spirit felt at home. Although I’d never actually visited Israel, it felt extremely familiar. Pretty much most of my life, I’ve followed and studied the Bible. I’ve read of the stories of Jesus walking, and performing miracles all throughout the “holy land.” What I will say is that my soul felt like I’d been there before. The country itself didn’t feel new or foreign, it felt like I belonged there. Of course, there’s a ton of conversation about who actually “belongs” in Israel, but my heart & soul knows. We’re taught one thing in the Western World, but let me be the first to say the truth is for anyone with eyes to see, and ears to hear.
Let’s just say I was one of the only young black women walking around Israel, and I was received as if I was a walking Queen or statue. Everyone kept asking me where I was from, they wanted to know if I was French, or Brazilian, and they frankly stopped and stared. If Jesus was black, it makes sense that my rich melanin skin instilled a sense of fascination among those residing in Israel. But, I digress.
2. Nothing Is “Free,” Everything Comes With A Price
Let me set the record straight: traveling for work is not the same as traveling for pleasure. To me, it’s more restrictive and puts a damper on the travel experience all together. It felt like being “at work” for 7 days straight. I know many of us dream of being able to “travel” for work, but frankly it really isn’t worth it once you do the calculations and consider the energy output. After all, everything in life is energy, and there is no amount of money worth the cost of energy it takes to travel across the world—in the name of “work.” This flight was 12-hours there, and back, and the Israel security point was the worst security checkpoint I’ve ever been through! It makes sense. Israel is a “controversial” territory, but it’s actually a very safe country to visit once they finally let you in!
One of the first and most valuable lessons I learned from taking this trip is that nothing is free, and everything comes with a price. While it may seem as if the trip was all-expenses paid, there’s always something you give up, when accepting anything without paying the monetary value. In the case of my trip to Israel, I gave up my personal freedom in exchange for an “all-expenses paid” trip to Israel. Traveling for work is OVERRATED and isn’t all it cracks up to be.
Although we did a ton of cool, exciting things, I didn’t have much time to spend alone. I didn’t have much time to soak up all of the information and historical references experienced during the trip. I didn’t have any time to myself or time to explore the land at my own leisure. The schedule was jam-packed, so much that we went straight to sight-seeing as soon as we landed in Israel! No hotel check-in and time to freshen up, we went straight to the world of exploration. In the evenings, since we were 6 hours ahead of Atlanta, I didn’t have much time to talk with my husband or connect with family back home. It was a very tight routine and schedule, all of which I agreed to upon accepting this “all-expenses paid” trip to the “Holy Land.”
3. Tel Aviv Beach Is Beautiful
When you think of the Middle East, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The desert, right? Well, apparently there are tons of tropical areas and there is also a beautiful beach alongside the Mediterranean Sea, called Gordon Tel Aviv Beach. Tel Aviv, in general, is such a beautiful city and has so much more to offer than meets the eye. I legit had no idea, until I got to Israel!
Tel Aviv-Yafo is considered the most populous city in Israel and is a very progressive, energetic city. There were a few familiar companies located in the city — WeWork, Accenture, Ernst & Young, McDonald’s — but there wasn’t a Starbucks in sight! (Just Saying) We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel, another American staple, so I didn’t feel too far away from home. The beach itself is beautiful, and the people are so nice and highly-energized. In fact, at the crack of dawn, most people are already outdoors, running on the beach, walking, cycling, surfing, or playing volleyball. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the people of Israel are far more fit and health conscious than we are here in the West!
American culture is rooted in food, entertainment, and eating. In Israel, the people are more focused on actually living— rather than eating and being entertained. Of course, this is up for debate, but this was my personal observation.
4. Let’s Sea! Sea of Galilee + The Dead Sea
The Sea of Galilee, a familiar landmark in the Bible. We visited the Sea of Galilee and even road on a hand-crafted boat, similar to the boat Simon Peter rode in when Jesus walked on water, calmed the storm, and fed the multitude. The fisherman that led our boat ride told us about the fresh tilapia that’s plentiful in the sea. So that immediately debunked the myth that “tilapia is bad for you.”
The Dead Sea, oh and it is very DEAD. This area got its name because the sea is highly concentrated with salt, so much that no life form can actually live in the sea. Tourists visit the sea to float. When you get inside the Dead Sea, your body floats without effort! This is because of the salt in the water. According to the Bible, the Dead Sea is also referenced in the Old Testament’s story of Sodom.
Lot, who inherited the traits of hospitality from his uncle Abraham decides to welcome two travelers into his home. Unbeknownst to him, these travelers are actually angels sent by God to destroy Sodom and the surrounding region.
According to the biblical narrative, Lot’s wife decided not to heed the angel’s warning, and when she turned back to survey the city’s destruction, God turned her into a pillar of salt.
Source: The Dead Sea in the Bible
Imagine that. God made the land “dead,” with purpose, yet in present-day, you can grab a Quarter Pounder, with Cheese across the street!
5. Jesus of Nazareth + Old Jerusalem
These images were captured while visiting The Christ Church in Old Jerusalem, and the city of Nazareth, where Jesus lived during his boyhood. This area was so rich in History, and was overflowing with tourists!
6. Food, Arts & Culture in Old City Jaffa
We took a tour of Old City Jaffa, which is well-known for the art community present throughout the city. What I loved most about Carmel Market was how there was no “industry,” instead, the people create/make a living using their own two hands.
The food was great, and extremely fresh. I had to learn the rules of the land:
No mixing meat and dairy products, periodt!
7. Here Kitty, Kitty – The Sacred Life of Cats
There were cats everywhere. Cats roam the “Holy Land” just like squirrels roam on college campuses! I’m a cat mom, so I enjoyed this cat-life. There were cats at the beach, cats at the Jordan River, cats at the Church of Nazerath, cats in Old Jaffa City, cats at Ben-Gurion University, cats in Jerusalem, cats everywhere!
I truly believe cats are divine, mystic creatures that play a significant role in our lives. I mean, have you ever seen a cat, catching the ocean breeze? The people of Israel say that cats were brought to the land to help with rat infestation, but I think there’s more to this story.
Cats are divine!
I Fell In Love With Sushi…. The Camel
We rode the camels on our way to the Dead Sea, and I fell in love with Sushi, the Camel!
Giselle Meets Giselle at The Jordan River
Near the end of our trip, we had the chance to visit The Jordan River, a popular tourist attraction on the Holy Land Experience with much significance! For Christians, it is well-known as the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. As a bustling tourism attraction, there were gift shops everywhere.
So, quick story– I’m at a gift shop at the Jordan River, and this woman asks me how much something costs in the local currency— in Spanish! I’m bi-lingual, so I understood her. She asked if I was from Brazil, I told her no from USA. I then randomly BUMPED into her while reaching on a jewelry rack.
She finally asked my name, I said — Giselle..
She said: “ME TOO!”
Belle at the Desert
Overall, this trip was an incredible experience. From the food, to the art, to the spirit of the people of Israel; I really enjoyed visiting the many historical landmarks I’ve read about all throughout my studies of The Bible. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but experiences last a lifetime!
Walking by faith, and not by sight,
— Belle in the City, Giselle