souvenirs from Israel

Because it's the weekend, and it has been scientifically proven that on the weekend, the people of the internet can only read lists, here's a list of little tokens I brought home that keep reminding me of our trip to Israel.

Halvah || Have you ever tasted hummus and thought, "this might taste good as candy?" No? Well, you're wrong. In that bowl on the left sits the flaky, sweet middle eastern candy known as halvah. Although not actually hummus candy, halvah is sesame candy, and ground up sesame seeds are tahini, and tahini is a crucial component of hummus, so, close enough. I am obsessed with this stuff, and finished off my entire duty-free container in a matter of days. (if I can't read the nutrition facts due to their being in Hebrew or Arabic, it's healthy, right?) Then, the first chance I got, I visited my local Middle Eastern grocery store and bought a giant vat that came complete with English nutrition facts. Rude.

Cheap pashmina || Displays of these scarves were set up conspicuously in every single market, just waiting to trap tourists like myself. I chose this green one because it reminded me of the bright blues and greens of Akko. Also I've been told I look good in green. 

Tea set || I don't actually own these PiP Studio dishes -- yet. Some of these mismatched dishes and teacups waited for us in our room at the Efendi, and it was out of one of the tea cups that I drank wine on the roof while watching the sunset -- a top ten Israel memory. I recently discovered that the brand is available on Amazon and pretty much everything is on my wish list.

Hamsa | Similar to the evil eye in Greece, the hamsa is a universal sign of protection. Much like the scarves, walls of hamsas are set up in every place you might find tourists.

Jewelry | Top left: I discovered the jewelry designer Shani Jacobi at a tiny store in an unassuming strip mall, and I'm in love with everything she makes -- but these earrings especially. Top right and bottom: I bought the delicate feather necklace at an arts market in Tel Aviv with the help of Y's uncle, who made sure that the Hebrew-speaking artist and I understood each other. Helpful, because I really don't understand Hebrew -- so much so that I didn't realize that Y's uncle was also buying me the matching earrings. So sweet, right? 

This is a really great story to tell when you want to see if someone is listening to you-- I told it to some co-workers and one of them said, "how romantic!" 

She was not listening. 

Toiletries | At the Efendi hotel, our shower was stocked with this Delicate Jasmine shampoo and conditioner by Sabon, a company founded in Tel Aviv. I obviously kept it (because I'm Ross) and now I might be slightly obsessed and buying it for everyone I think deserves a little spa indulgence. Tip: before giving your mother-in-law jasmine-scented hand lotion, read the label that says that jasmine is actually an aphrodisiac and this lotion is very "sensual". Oops.  

Jerusalem & the Meaning of Cleavage

In Hebrew, there is apparently no word for cleavage.

I learned this as I sat in the backseat of Y's cousin's car. We were driving to get a pre-Passover lunch: giant bowls of hummus. We're doing hummus wrong, America. It's not just a dip, it's a meal.

Anyway, Y and his cousin were having a perfectly innocent conversation that took a turn when Y, for some reason, mentioned cleavage. 


His cousin, who I guarantee was familiar with the concept of cleavage -- he's a 23 year old guy -- was confused. "What is cleavage?" he asked. Stuck in the backseat, I listened as Y explained cleavage and expounded on it until he felt his cousin was adequately familiar with the term and all its various uses. After, oh, ten minutes of discussing cleavage, Y was satisfied.

A few days later, we took a day trip to Jerusalem with this cousin and his girlfriend. 

At one point, the girlfriend was telling the story of an embarrassing moment while waitressing. 

"I was carrying a platter of food, and as I reached across this woman, I accidentally spilled the platter all over her...." she paused, at a loss for words, gesturing across her chest.

"CLEAVAGE!" said Y's cousin proudly.

Some people travel to foreign countries to heal the sick. Some travel to bring religion and hope. 

We brought the meaning of cleavage. 


On that note, here are some pictures of one of the holiest cities in the world. 

 Bagels, hijab, rugs, scarves and arab pastries in the Old City market

Crowd of worshippers at the Western Wall

Crowd of worshippers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

This is the future (insert space noises)

When I was growing up, my family visited Disney World fairly often. In Epcot Center -- inside the giant golf ball -- there's a slow moving ride called Spaceship Earth that takes you through the history of human communication. It sounds boring, maybe, but as a kid I loved "the future" on that ride: a family communicating via video phone. It seemed crazy at the time, about as crazy as flying cars, and yet here we are, FaceTiming and Skyping like it's no big deal (related: Everything is amazing right now and nobody's happy).

Although I use technology approximately 100 hours a day and shouldn't really be amazed by it anymore, I still kind of am -- especially when I'm across the world from my life and still so connected. 

Y and his grandmother FaceTiming with his mom

By the way: When I mentioned that I would be going to Israel, I think a lot of people (myself included) assume visiting the Middle East would be like traveling backwards in time. In some tiny ways, Israel feels primitive, and by that I mean that there are a whole lot of clotheslines. We stayed at Y's aunt and uncle's house, which came complete with a clothesline outside... and, at one point, five iPads at the kitchen table inside. And I'm sure ours wasn't the only house with so many devices. Israel's high tech industry is booming, and the country has been dubbed "start-up nation". One example: pretty much the entire country uses a crowd-sourced Israeli traffic app called Waze that basically put radio traffic reports out of business. 

Not exactly primitive, right? I think we've all learned our lesson: don't judge a book by its clothelines.

The colors of Akko

Get ready: I'm about to hit you with, like, 6 posts about Akko, a city you've probably never heard of but should definitely visit. Actually, I'm going to hit you with 6 blog posts and a Steller. Does anyone else use Steller? I think it's so fun.

The old city of Akko, located on the coast of Northern Israel, is an ancient walled city made up mostly of Muslim families. This means every night the sky glows with the neon lights of minarets and several times a day, the noise of the city is muffled by the call to prayer that takes over the village. The city streets are narrow stone alleys with tiny convenience stores tucked into nooks and crannies and bright shades of blue, green and turquoise hiding behind every corner.

 It's like nowhere I've ever been. 


I had to write that intelligent sounding paragraph to make up for what was actually coming out of our mouths, over and over again, while we wandered the streets of Akko:

"It looks just like it did on Wikipedia!" --Y


"This is just like Aladdin!" -- me.

Let the Israel posts commence...

A few things about Israel:

1. I have lived on this Earth for 29 years, and never once have I run smack into a glass door. 

In Israel, it happened to me twice.

It happened to Y once. 

Mazel tov, Israel, you pretty much have the cleanest glass in the world.

2. Sing it with me, everyone: ...and I'm proud to be an American....

3. On Sunday morning, our flight left from Tel Aviv at 5 am, with an 8 hour layover in Amsterdam, getting us home to Minneapolis at 7 pm the same day (so basically, we time traveled). Rather than go to sleep in Tel Aviv, we stayed up all night, fueled by ouzo shots and wine. When our plane landed in Amsterdam a few hours later, we took the train into the city for the day.  In other words, I was an international jet setter on Sunday. 

On Monday, I did nothing but organize my medicine cabinet. 

It was almost as much fun and left me with far less jet lag. 

4. I'm currently spamming Instagram with photos from my trip. They're all from last week, and I realize this isn't how Instagram is intended to be used, but I don't actually care. For 2 reasons: 

1) I don't think of Instagram as a way to gain followers or "enhance my brand". For me, it's just a scrapbook -- there have been plenty of times when I needed a pick me up and engaged in some instatherapy -- scrolling back through my pictures and realizing what a nice little life I have. 

2) Despite sharing far too much about my life on the internet, I have a fear that if I post photos while I'm out of town someone is going to come steal all of my stuff (because people are clamoring for my Target wardrobe and Ikea furniture). Although, if anyone was paying attention, my absence from social media was probably even more suspicious...