Sitting in my hotel in Jerusalem, I ponder upon what is my first impression of Israel. From outside this country of conflicts and controversies poses a kind of insecurity to people who want to visit it. I too had my apprehensions.
1. Not so conservative – Living thousands of kilometers away and hearing all kinds of news, I always thought Israel would be very conservative. In fact, barring one, all the dresses and tops I packed were long skirts, trousers or with long sleeves . Tel Aviv, our first city, made us change our views, very quickly. It looks like any modern society of the world, though it is conservative in its own sense.
2. Beautiful landscape – Large parts of Israel is desert, but still the landscape is very beautiful with gentle rolling hills all around, scenic valleys, beauiful beaches on the mediterranean sea which are not crowded and green fertile oases expanding into the distance, that supports plethora of flora and fauna. To add to it, spotted here and there, are ancient ruins, some of them more than a couple of millenia old. Whereever you stumble, there is a biblical story waiting to be heard!
3. Vegetarian Food – First thing that we noticed was, you don’t have to ‘look’ for vegetarian food. Variety of it is right there in front of us! The tasty Falafal and hummus in a pita bread with various sauces is my favorite. There are soups, fries, baked vegetables, bourekas, quiche and many types of bread and cheese etc. The list goes on. Olive is an essential ingredient in Israeli cooking. Many Israelis now opt for Vegetarian or Vegan food. Don’t be surprised if you see a restaurant sporting 100% Vegan sign!
4. English speaking – English is spoken by most. I am told that many Israelis speak at least four languages! Hebrew, Arabic, English and the language of the country from where they arrived here after the formation of Israel. Our guide could speak five.
5. Jerusalem has character – Jerusalem, the source of the 3 important mono-theistic religion, is like no other city I have visited in my life. Mostly conservative, most houses sport the same color as the old city since they all use the same stone, dolomite. I have been to many religious towns but this one is clearly different Though all houses seem similar yet there is something which forces us to love it more and the reason is not religion alone!
6. Cost of living – It is more expensive than most Asian countries. In fact almost as much as Europe! While speaking to people here, I figured, there are a lot of things that have to be imported. Water is life and ensuring the habitable parts of Israel has enough water is a challenge.
There are two more days to go and there is so much to see and learn.
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