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Touring the Holy Land

A 10-day trek through the deserts, highlands and cities of Israel.

By: Jack Tumen + Save to a List

Over the summer I had the great privilege of traveling to Israel for 10 days to see the sights, learn about the history and experience the culture of this ancient place. I had actually been there once before when I was much younger. Having not remembered much from my first visit, I made a point to take in the experience this time around. With my camera in hand, I was all set.

We landed in Tel Aviv - where our trip would eventually end - and drove to the ancient city of Tiberias. The city sits on a perch overlooking the Sea of Galilee. You can see all the way across to the shoreline on the opposite side of the sea. I've only seen a handful of seas before - the vast Mediterranean for one - so I pictured most of them to have an endless ocean-like horizon. After all, the word "sea" inspires vastness and grandeur, does it not? If I hadn't been told otherwise, I probably would've mistook it for a really big pond - a really big pond that Jesus walked on.

Three nights were spent in Tiberias but we ventured out into the region each day. One of those days was occupied by a hike up and around Mount Meron. One of the greener places we saw on the trip, the terrain was jagged and dry. The shrubbery seemed to spray out of the mountain side like party blowers; unapologetic for grabbing your hair, tripping your shoes or scraping your elbows. Still, the views of the farm land below were beautiful.

The hike ended at a hidden oasis that I had no idea could even exist in a place like this. The treetops rose high above our heads, creating a canopy of much-needed shade. A majestic waterfall appeared at the end of the walkway as the scene opened up to a place one might see only in dreams.

On another day we ventured way up north into the Golan Heights. I learned quickly that the views here were not the same as back in the States. Not just because of the terrain but because of the dust in the air. Instead of clear cut views and rolling landscapes, the particulates from the desert seemed to shroud the land beyond in mystery.

After winding up endless switchback, we reached a lookout point that gazed across the Israeli border into Syria and Lebanon. It struck me how a place seemingly so peaceful could be ravaged by such turmoil.

One of the few locations I remembered from my previous trip to Israel was the city of Tzfat. Nestled into the side of a mountain, Tzfat is a peaceful arts colony with a rich history. Walking the streets, you'll find yourself in narrow alleyways with smooth, slippery stone streets - weathered from decades of hustle and bustle. While there, I had my first plate of shakshouka - a saucy egg platter mixed with peppers and spices served hot. While it was absolutely scrumptious, it was not the dish I remember so much as the lovely couple that welcomed us into their home, which doubled as a restaurant. It's the people that make the adventure, after all.

Jerusalem was the next stop. There's much to see in such an historical place. The old city is always a must - particularly a visit to the Western Wall. The Israel Museum was a great way to pack all the history around us into a comprehensible box, so to speak. I took the most interest to the markets, however, with their liveliness and bustle. Global cuisines packed into such a small radius allow for a wide array of options when eating out. The nightlife isn't lacking either.

After a pit stop to float in the Dead Sea, the final leg of our trip led us into the desert. There are some other-worldly views offered in this region of Israel; lots of craters and canyons give you the impression you might be on Mars. We spent a night at a Bedouin encampment where we spoke with the locals, star-gazed and rode camels. A 4am wakeup call the next morning had us on a bus to Mount Masada; an old fortress overlooking the Dead Sea and Jordan. The sunrise that morning was spectacular and was truly the best way to put a cap on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the Middle East.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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