Category Archives: Israel

Exiting the Middle East via Tel Aviv

From Jerusalem, we took the bus to Tel Aviv. The second most populous city in Israel, Tel Aviv is the country’s financial capital and known for its lively atmosphere. Also of note: Tel Aviv sits on the Mediterranean Sea and has a lovely stretch of beaches.

Tel Aviv, Israel -
Panoramic view of Tel Aviv.

While in Tel Aviv, we stayed with a friend of a friend who lived within walking distance of one of these beaches. Unsurprisingly, we spent our first afternoon and early evening walking along and relaxing on the beach. Continue reading Exiting the Middle East via Tel Aviv

Day Trips from Jerusalem: Bethlehem, Masada, and the Dead Sea

There was so much to see in Jerusalem (more than we could reasonably see, actually), but that didn’t stop us from using it as a base for a couple of very interesting day trips. One day, we took the bus to Bethlehem, and, another day, we rented a car and drove to Masada and the Dead Sea.


It was an easy bus ride from Jerusalem to Bethlehem,1 and we were able to navigate the city on foot once we arrived. As we walked from the bus station to  Manger Square, we passed through some market streets.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem -
Exterior of the Church of the Nativity. | Image credit: Ted Swedenburg

After a (not so) quick lunch, we made our way to the Church of the Nativity, which is famous for being constructed above a grotto in which Jesus is said to have been born. The emperor Constantine and his mother first commissioned a church on this site in 327 AD. That first church was destroyed by fire, and a replacement was constructed in 565. Over the course of the next centuries, the Church of the Nativity has been restored, renovated, and expanded many times.

Continue reading Day Trips from Jerusalem: Bethlehem, Masada, and the Dead Sea

In Which We Visit Jerusalem

As one of the oldest cities in the world and a city with strong ties to three of the world’s major religions, Jerusalem has an incredible number of important sites. We spent nearly a week in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, and we felt like we barely scratched the surface.

Old City

Many of the most important sites are located in the Old City, a section of Jerusalem that is surrounded by walls that were erected in 1538. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is divided into four sections: the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter.

Old City, Jerusalem, Israel -
Inside the walls of the Old City.

On our first full day in Jerusalem, we took a free walking tour of the Old City to get a survey of the area. Although we gleaned some broad background on Jerusalem’s history, I would not necessarily recommend this plan to fellow travelers – mostly we just ended up killing a few hours walking around to a bunch of sites without the opportunity to actually go inside or truly appreciate them.1 If I could do it over again, I would skip the tour and just visit the different quarters on our own – which is exactly what we did over the next several days. Continue reading In Which We Visit Jerusalem

Back at the Israeli Border: Overland from Amman to Jerusalem via the King Hussein Bridge

The day after our trip to Jerash, we said goodbye to Jordan and set out for Israel. Readers of this blog may recall that we crossed the border into Israel once already on this trip … and that our first excursion into Israel took less than an hour. This time, we were doing more than just transiting through – we were on our way to Jerusalem.

We planned to travel overland from Amman to Jerusalem via the King Hussein Bridge (or, as it is known on the Israeli side of the border, the Allenby Bridge), which spans the Jordan River.

Crossing from Jordan to Israel |
As an international border crossing, the bridge is not really one of those things that you are supposed to photograph. Just to give you a vague idea of what the area used to look like, here is an old picture of the bridge from the ’90s that I found on Flickr. | Image credit: Velovotee

Everything that we had read about this border crossing indicated it was busy and intense, and so we did our best to prepare ourselves for what we anticipated being a long, potentially frustrating day. We made sure our papers were in order, that anything that might look suspicious to immigration authorities (the guidebooks which attracted the attention of the border guards on our first trip across Israel, the jar of peanut butter that we carry to keep us fed on long bus rides) was near the top of our bags and thus easily accessible for inspection, and that we were armed with plenty of snacks, water, and patience. Continue reading Back at the Israeli Border: Overland from Amman to Jerusalem via the King Hussein Bridge