Israel has been on my list for years. So when Adam’s dad (who was born in Israel) suggested we join them in Tel Aviv for our nephew’s bar mitzvah, the trip finally started to take shape. We went back and forth about whether or not to bring Theo, but after my parents graciously offered to stay with him, we knew he would be happier being spoiled by his grandparents at home. And let’s be real, we were absolutely terrified to put him on a 15 hour flight.
We landed in Tel Aviv hangry, and in a heated discussion about whether or not a hot dog is really a sandwich. Cause we’re ‘Mericans, ya’ll. But we’re in Israel now, so we’re searching for hummus. Per my brother-in-law’s recommendation, we headed to Roni Ful, a traditional Egyptian spot. We ordered three different variations, salad and falafel. Equally important, were the sides of hot pepper vinegar, raw onion and schug (a Middle Eastern hot sauce). If you know me, you know I like my condiments. Yes, I am talking about ranch.
The meal was simple, but really special. Adam and I eat a lot of Mediterranean food and we served Middle Eastern food at our wedding. But I can say for certain, this is the best hummus I’ve ever eaten. Actually, absolutely everything was perfect. And I’m still wondering how the tomatoes were this incredible in January.
After lunch we headed to our hotel in Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood outside of Jaffa, a beautiful little district of narrow streets now filled with boutiques and cafes. Dinner was planned at Romano, located in the Florentin, about a 10 minutes walk. The restaurant is concealed behind a wall of graffiti, so if you’re one of the those people who gets up during dinner to use the bathroom and forgets where their table is (NOT TALKING ABOUT MYSELF), tell a friend to meet you outside. The space takes up two floors of a beautiful historic building in the Florentin, an artist/hipster neighborhood. And Romano was no exception. What I mean is, all the people there were way cooler than me. Probably cooler than you too. Sorry mom and dad.
We spent a good portion of the next day checking out the neighborhood where Adam’s dad grew up. After seeing his old turf, we walked over to Shuk Ha’Carmel, a famous marketplace in Tel Aviv. This is where Adam spent all our money on spices. Shwarma rub, shakshuka blend, dried schug, etc, etc, etc. The man is obsessed. All of our clothes smelled like Za’atar for a week, but I forgave him because dinner is legit at our house. And brunch too. But come on the weekends, because during the week you’ll likely get oatmeal with a side of banana.
Although it rained every day we were in Tel Aviv, we didn’t let it stop us from exploring the city. The day we cruised around the Jaffa port was particularly stormy. Still, we had the best time wandering with not a soul around. At the end of the day the rain cleared up, just in time for us to see an incredible sunset by the water.
We crammed thousands of years of history into a single day in Jerusalem. Luckily we had great tour guides. First stop was Mahane Yehuda, the partially open air market, where we grabbed some pita to fuel up for our journey into the Old City. As the Old City of Jerusalem is divided into quarters, (Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim) we spent time walking through each. Through all of the division, I didn’t notice any visible tension between the different communities. But of course, it does exist and the area was heavily enforced by the Israeli army.
It was time to head back to Tel Aviv, but not before catching a sunset. On a mission to find a sweeping view of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock, we headed up Mount Scopus where we found exactly what we were looking for. Magic. And a camel named Sally.
We had to say goodbye to Israel now and go home to our son. We were ready and SO excited to see our little man. We happily arrived home and he was glad to see us too, but it was also clear we missed him just a teeeeeeny bit more. The way it should be. He’d been living the high life eating cookies and crackers on demand. The grandparents were especially excited to see us though. Nine days people. Nine days.
We’ll be back, Israel. And next time we’ll introduce Theo to Sally.