To the ancient Israelites, this was the promised land. One in which their god had promised them as they were led out of Egypt, pursued even as they left. When we first signed on this journey to Jordan and Israel, we had focused truly on Jordan only (part 1 here). For us it was the rose city of Petra that stood out in the itinerary.
And we had thought that it would be nice to cross over to Israel for a bit…
But then there are no tours that only focus on Jordan. And we were not keen on independent travel in that country prior to this journey. So this tour group it was. But as you will read in our journalog of the Israel segment (part 2 here), almost 8 days were spent on this side of the border!
And it all started with a coach drive to the border station of Allenbey bridge.
Strictly it was only short stretch of bridge, which did not seem to have any water running underneath. Really wondered why they built it? Once the ‘harrowing’ customs experience was over, we begun the rather packed itinerary of the week. As might have read in the journalog, the days were full and we were seemingly in a rush most of the time. But that was because our guide took her time to explain to us the sites when we did get there, only to have to overrun and ‘snowball’ the delays affecting the last one or two sites of the day.
Now the shorter winter days did not help at all, so our recommendation would be to come during the longer days in the spring or autumn. Avoid summer wherever possible since the temperatures should rise to unbearable levels. Throughout our time in Israel the days were cloudy though it did not rain. The winter is supposedly the wettest time of the year, and it was fortuitous that we did not get any downpour until the last day in Jerusalem. And it was chilly when it rained! Umbrellas or raincoats really came in handy on that day.
What to buy?
Did not buy much over the course of the 12 days. What we did enjoy were the fruits and wine in Israel. Some idea of costs and things we bought:
- Wines & spirits
- At a wine shop in Jerusalem we bought Pomegranate wine (said to retail only in Israel and Armenia) for NIS69 and Spanish (Cava) sparkling wine NIS40. Only one bottle was left when we departed the country.
- We bought a bottle of white and red from Adir winery (Golan Heights) for NIS90 and NIS120 respectively. Only the red wine remains…
- Fruits and nuts
- Dates were bought in varying prices in the Mahane Yehuda market. At one stall it was NIS25 for 500g while at another it was NIS32/kg, so like anywhere in the world it pays to shop around.
- Strawberries of 900g bought for NIS26 and it was sooo sweet.
- Six oranges for NIS5 which helped with our daily vitamin C intake.
- Six Persimmons for NIS2.90 that was so fresh and succulent.
- Pack of mix nuts for NIS27, and pack of caramelized hazel nuts for NIS15 each.
- Pine nut in caramel for NIS25 (vendor said it is without sugar?)
- At the Ahava (pronounced “Ah va”) factory at the dead sea we bought close >NIS750 worth of creams, salts and body scrub. Premier offers cheaper versions so the choice is yours.
- Outside of Jerusalem where we had not changed any money into Israeli Shekels, we used US dollars to buy soaps, dates and date syrup.
Of note when we posted our postcards, the total cost of sending 8 cards came to NIS54.80 to countries such as Singapore, Germany and the US. We have the details but it ranges from NIS7-9 each. We are proud to say we got the post card we posted to ourselves. Hope our friends got theirs too…
Transport in Jerusalem
We took the Light Rail in Jerusalem from Shivei Israel station to Yehuda Camp station. It costs NIS5.90 one way, and take note that the largest bill the machine accepts is the NIS20 note. Once you have you tickets, you need to validate it in the machines onboard the trams. It was a working day when we went to the market, and a nice way to see how the locals get about their business.
During the tour briefing, the impression we were given was that cost of living in Israel is high. So change more money (or least bring more) they cooed.
But since we were with a group, we were ‘insulated’ from the cost of meals. But if the cost of a meal at a celebrity chef restaurant is any guide, it would be moderate compared with our little red dot. Need to know more about the costs? Talk to us!
It is definitely a country to travel independently to. But we were shackled in this instance as part of a group, though we knew the consequence of that decision in joining one. Once again the link to the journalog is here.