Why Jerusalem Needs To Be On Your Bucket List
Why I Went To Jerusalem
I just returned from the world’s largest travel blogger conference, TBEX, which was held in Jerusalem. There are many misconceptions and preconceived notions about traveling and the safety in Israel. I knew these were unwarranted, but I was still apprehensive after years of hearing about Israel on the news. Jerusalem has a beautiful walled Old City, the Mahane Yehuda market, and the absolutely amazing culinary scene.
I was traveling alone from Zürich to Jerusalem. A family travel blogger friend of mine had asked if I wanted to attend the world’s largest travel blogger conference, TBEX Jerusalem, and I jumped at the opportunity. We met up on the Frankfurt leg of our flights and flew in to Tel Aviv. We took a bus from the airport which was super cheap, safe, and fantastic.
Tours To Take In Jerusalem
The next morning, we went for a three-hour 4am sunrise cycle through Jerusalem with Abraham Tours. It was absolutely freezing before the sun came up. We met a group of 10 travel bloggers who cycled for the next three hours with us. We had the city to ourselves. No cars or tourists. Just a few crazy cyclists excited to wake up at 4am for a bucket list experience of a lifetime. We saw the sunrise over the Mount of Olives, the graveyard, and the most gorgeous sunlight on the Abbey of the Dormition. Then we stopped on top of where the last supper took place to gaze at the gorgeous sunrise and take photos of each other and marvel at this amazing city of Jerusalem.
After our epic cycle, we went on a free walking tour of Jerusalem. I’m so glad we did both the cycle as well as the walk as we saw so many parts of Jerusalem on both. We walked through the four quarters of the Old City and learned about the history of the city.
After our conference during the day, we wandered through the market and the Old City in the evenings. I was struck by how quiet, clean, and empty the streets were. It was never crowded, and I never felt unsafe. A few tour groups would walk through the Old City alleyways, but it was few and far between. I was upset at my preconceived notions of feeling unsafe, unsure, and glad I was traveling with my male friend. It all felt crazy as I walked down the streets after dark.
Why do we scare each other with travel? I meet friends or coworkers who question why I would go to South Africa every year to see family. Do I have my vaccines? Do I carry a gun? Aren’t I scared? Why do we do this to each other? I think the only solution is that people need to travel more. By getting out of our comfort zone is where all the learning happens. And I am so incredibly thankful to travel and learn that the more places I see, the more we are all the same. I wish for more Americans to travel the world.
My Favorite Part Of Jerusalem
My favorite part of the week was when my friend and I were wandering the Old City to take a few more photos before we left. We stood taking a picture at an archway where a man was selling bread for a while, and then we decided to see what was down another alleyway. We happened upon the most incredible part of the Old City, The Muslim Quarter.
Right before the Damascus Gate was the most bustling and alive part of the entire walled city. Instead of the Christian and Jewish Quarters which had been very quiet and only focused on tourists passing by in tours, The Muslim Quarter is so busy with people buying their fruits and vegetables. People shouting for their food to be purchased and the most incredible buzz and energy. If you are able, go to the Damascus Gate and wander in to the food market. We stood in awe, soaking in the experience.
My phone died, so I was able to see and feel everything from that moment. It was pure magic. I felt like we had found what we all look for, a truly authentic travel experience. No tourists, no tours, no one saw us. We were experiencing a life changing moment.
The food is amazing in Jerusalem. The TBEX conference fed us all day long with authentic local food. We ate breakfast at our hotel, but the conference had two baristas (!) and lots of breakfast cake (poppy seed yeast cake which was incredible), pita with hummus, a big lunch spread including desserts. In the evenings after the conference, we took the tram to the market or the Old City for dinner. TBEX gave us a free transportation card for the week and we loved taking the efficient, clean and organized tram from the conference to town and back. At Mahane Yehuda market I bought dates and halva to share with my family back in Zürich.
And a word to the security wary. The airport security to and from Tel Aviv is incredibly tight. They have a separate security area at the Frankfurt airport for any flight going to Tel Aviv. My passport and luggage were checked so many times! It is quite reassuring that the security has such a focus and I am grateful for their attention to detail.
Is Jerusalem on your bucket list? Are you afraid to go? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below.