My friend Susan is quite clever when it comes to creativity in traveling logistics. She’s always finding great ways to combine travel with work, and her recent adventure to Israel is a shining example. Somehow she finagled her company into sending her to Israel for a few weeks on a translation project, which turned out to be an incredible trip as well. Her account of the experience and photos are below, while her logistical maneuvers are etched firmly in my mind as I think about my future…

Oct 21: Hi friends!
So i hope this finds everyone well! time here is flying by, I can’t believe I’ve already been here for a week and a half! Basically life 4 days a week in Jerusalem is good but filled with work, so haven’t actually seen that much of Jerusalem yet (although I plan on it)! I did manage to join and (all women’s) gym, and nearly freaked out today when i saw the locker room was full of wigs (yes, like hair pieces). Many orthodox jewish women cover their hair (with scarves or wigs) and they take them off to work out…totally unexpected for me to say the least.

I went to Eilat this past weekend with 4 of my coworkers (and one of their wives)- it’s a gorgeous city in the South on the Red Sea, known for being the “Las Vegas of Israel”. It was well over 90 degrees. We rented a car and drove through the desert (amazing views) and stopped at the Dead Sea on the way, which is about an hour away from Jerusalem. Going into the Dead Sea is unlike any feeling I have ever experienced- the water is slick, feels almost oily, and there is virtually no life (obviously) in it- to go in a sea with no seaweed, shells, fish etc is actually very strange. It is totally unreal to have to make an effort to stand because you are floating.

There are incredible coral reefs in the Red Sea, so once we got to Eilat we went snorkeling. From Eilat you can see Jordan- it’s so close the Jordanian border is actually in the water (and you can definitely NOT cross it). If you look closely in the picture, you can see the Jordanian flag, which is apparently also the largest flag in the world. From Eilat you can even see Egypt in the distance.

My coworkers here all observe shabbat, so once the sun goes down on Friday night until it rises on saturday is a period of rest. We basically hung out at the resort/in pools for most of Saturday, which was really relaxing. We hit the beach again on Sunday and then drove 4 hours back to Jerusalem Sunday night.

Monday we celebrated our company’s 10th anniversary with a dinner at an estate in Ein Kerem (meaning Spring of the Vineyard- where John the Baptist was born), about 45 minutes away from where I live, near the forest. The location was absolutely gorgeous, the property is right next to ancient terraces and vineyards, and a stone well and spring, where (according to the Bible) Mary met with Elizabeth and discovered that her baby would be the Son of God. The amount of history is astounding. We had an 8 course dinner- with foods that were grown or raised in Jerusalem only, many on the fields behind the house while being serenaded by musicians in the garden (yes, it was super romantic and felt like someone should be getting married)

My coworkers here have been absolutely wonderful in helping me get adjusted, and I’m headed to Tel Aviv on Friday morning with 2 of them. I’ve also attached some photos here (although they really don’t do it justice) so you guys can see what I’m up to.

Nov 2: Soo where to start…
i’ve spent the past two weekends in tel aviv, a city that i am now completely in love with.

the mediterranean is beautiful, and it’s still hot enough to go to the beach and go swimming. It also seems to be a very active city- there is a promenade on the beach, the length of the city, and its perfect for running, roller blading, etc. There are tons of people windsurfing, kayaking etc. Tel aviv also has a big cafe culture- both during the day and at night. I am now a huge fan of israeli breakfast/brunch- egg dishes, tons of fresh breads, and plates and plates of different spreads- think fig jams, tahini, lebaneh, all kind of cheeses and tapenades. the fruits and vegetables are so fresh, and there are bakeries and cafes everywhere. (attached is a picture of the beach in tel aviv at sunset)

i spent the past two friday mornings in jerusalem running errands and getting ready to leave for Tel Aviv, which is about an hour away. Jerusalem right before shabbat is actually really neat. The city shuts down almost entirely around 4 pm in the afternoon, but right before it everyone is getting ready buying food for shabbat dinner and preparing for 24 hours of rest and not being able to spend money. The main street near me was filled with people selling flowers, breads, baked goods, fruit. People actually go around asking if you have a place to go for shabbat- the sense of community is so strong, and i have to say it’s pretty incredible that people invite total strangers over to their house for dinner if they have no where else to go.

this past week i also went to the shuk with my friend/coworker dana- a big market in jerusalem right next to the old city. it is unbelievable. there are stalls for everything from olives to gummy candy to halva (i’ve attached some pictures here, including one of the big wheels of halva, a dessert made out of sesame and other nuts, and a fresh tray of rugelach from the most famous bakery in jerusalem). We had lunch in one of the restaurants tucked in between the shuk stalls and then went to the armenian quarter of the old city (i’ve also attached a picture in front of the dome of the rock). There are not even words to describe the view of the dome and ruins from within the old city…

this past monday night our boss took some of the people in our office to an isreali national soccer game (yes, another photo attached). The game was beitar (jerusalem) versus an arab town near here called sachnin. the game itself was not all that exciting (no one scored) but the insults (the fans of both sides are WELL separated and everyone- myself included- was searched thoroughly three times before entering the stadium) were ridiculous. according to my coworkers who were translating the hebrew, each side shouts at each other, in what seems to me to be an oddly organized manner- threats along the lines of “i hope your village burns to the ground”, the other side shouts “terrorist” etc etc and they get progressively more vile. although i’m trying to learn hebrew, i think im actually thankful i couldnt understand everything going on, because it’s not pretty…

that being said, i have met some absolutely wonderful people here- friends of friends, friends of my coworkers- everyone has been so happy to show me around and is generally so proud of israel.

my parents are coming to visit this week and arrive in tel aviv wednesday morning, so i am going up tuesday night to be there to meet them. They will be with me in jerusalem for two days and check out the old city, and then we are headed up north to the golan heights area/ sea of galilee (according to the bible, where jesus walked on water). needless to say,very pumped to see them.